Two Tuskegee Airmen members – the famed all-black squadron that flew in World War II – died on the same day, at the same age, in their respective homes in Los Angeles. The men, lifelong friends who enlisted together, were both 91-years-old.
Clarence E. Huntley Jr. and Joseph Shambrev died on January 5th in their Los Angeles homes, relative said Sunday.
Huntley and Shambrev enlisted together in 1942. They were deployed overseas to Italy in 1944 with the 100th Fighter Squadron of the Army Air Force’s 332nd Fighter Group. Both mechanics, they kept the combat planes flying, the Huffington Post reported.
Huntley serviced P-39, P -47 and P-51 aircraft, and as crew chief, was responsible for the plane of the squadron commander, Capt. Andrew D. Turner, said Huntley’s nephew, Craig Huntly of Inglewood. “The life of his pilot was in his hands, and he took that very seriously,” Huntly said.
His concern led Turner to nickname him “Mother,” his nephew said.
On top of facing danger, the Tuskegee Airmen also faced racism.
Shambrev’s son, Tim Shambrev of Altadena, said his father recalled getting off a train in Alabama where a hospitality station was welcoming white troops with free coffee and congratulatory handshakes.
“When he and his buddies came off, dressed in their uniforms, of course they didn’t get any congratulations” and were asked to pay for their coffee, Shambrey said.
“The thing about those men is that they were very proud” and decided not to make a fuss, Shambrey said. “They were already used to so much discrimination.”
Later in his life, Shambrev didn’t speak much about his war service but enjoyed holding barbecues that sometimes drew 150 people, including his old army friends, his son said.
Huntley also didn’t speak much with his family about the war, his daughter Sheila McGee of Los Angeles said.
Huntley later served as a skycap for more than 60 years at airports in Burbank and Los Angeles, his daughter said.
Shambrev was a National Guard combat engineer during the Korean War and later spent his career with the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, his son said.