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The Tuskegee Airmen Who Inspire - Chappie James

One of the most interesting things that I learned about the Tuskegee Airmen’s history regards Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James, one of the original World War II Airmen, and his standoff in 1969 with Muammar Gaddafi, the de facto leader of Libya at the time.  

I also admire General James because the Tuskegee Airmen chapter of which I am a member is named after him. He also was from Pensacola, Florida, which is not far from my hometown of Orlando.  

General James was highly decorated by the U. S. Air Force, and had a wide variety of memorable moments during his time in service. Among other awards, he won two Legion of Merit honors, three Distinguished Flying Crosses and more than 10 Air Medals, which are some of the highest honors you can achieve in the Air Force.  

The story of the standoff he had with Gaddafi is fascinating because it is a part of what made him the first African-American four-star general. It occurred at Wheelus Air Base, in Libya, when James was there as commander of the 7272nd Fighter Training Wing. The base was in the process of being turned over to the Libyans, and Qaddafi thought he could push his way in to seize even more land. But James would not waver. He had the base's gates closed to not let anyone else in, and went face-to-face with Qaddafi.

James told him to “Move his hand away” from his holster, and he later said that if Qaddafi hadn't done so and had tried to pull his pistol, his hand "would never have cleared his holster.”  

The standoff ended without any violence, and James successfully removed his troops and most of his Air Force equipment. This altercation could have ended badly, and incited an uproar of violence if not handled correctly. I believe his bravery and leadership saved the Air Force both lives and a great deal of money. 

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