Behind the Wings ®
The Podcast – S2, Episode 16
Meet the unlikely cast of characters who came together to reunite Col. James Randall with a piece of his past.
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We will get into many topics today all connecting back to one long-lost helmet belonging to an F-105 pilot who went down during the Vietnam War. The helmet belonged to Retired Col. James Randall. Col. Randall was a proud member of the Tuskegee Airmen, who were some of the first Black aviators in the US military and helped to desegregate the US armed forces in 1948. They proved themselves as elite aviators with an impressive combat record and war accomplishments.
Col. Randall served 36 years in the U.S. Air Force, both on active duty and in the Reserves. Randall joined the Army Air Corps in 1945, flew 75 combat missions in the Korean War, and 44 in the Vietnam war. Col. Randall was a recipient of the Legion of Merit and the Purple Heart. His career as a fighter pilot, and his story is nothing short of remarkable.
Our guests include Essie Randall, Roberta Rollins, Gary “Paco” Gregg, and Chuck Stout. There is a LOT going on this episode, so stick with us. THIS one is going to be cool!
- Col. Randall joined the Army Air Corps in 1945 and after completing basic training, Randall was assigned to Tuskegee Army Airfield in Alabama
- The Tuskegee Airmen were some of the first Black aviators in the US military and helped desegregate the US armed forces in 1948.
- The Tuskegee Airmen proved themselves as elite aviators with an impressive combat record and war accomplishments.
- In 1963, on September 14th, the Randalls, along with 13 other African American families assigned to Shaw, took a stand against school segregation in their district. They filed a federal suit nine years after the landmark Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education. These brave families came to be known as the ‘Shaw 14.’
- Col. Randall was commissioned as an officer in 1950, was a flight instructor, and flew 75 combat missions in the Korean War, flying F-51s, and then in Vietnam he flew an additional 44 missions, before being shot down in an F-105 over North Vietnam, where he was able to eject, and was rescued by a helicopter.
- Col. Randall’s helmet was lost when he ejected, and he didn’t see the helmet again for nearly 50 years.
- Dominique Eluere found Col. Randall’s helmet at a flea market in Cambodia.
- Gary “Paco” Gregg, working with Dominique, helped reconnect the helmet to Col. Randall in 2013.
- After receiving the helmet at a Tuskegee Conference, Col. Randall said the most important thing to come out of this story was the friendship.
- Tale of Colorado Springs Vietnam war vet’s lost helmet spans globe, decades | News | gazette.com
- Helmet returned to Air Force pilot shot down in Vietnam | FOX 2 (fox2now.com)
- Veteran reunited with his helmet nearly 50 years later (kktv.com)
- James Randall > Veterans in Blue > Veterans_Library (af.mil)
- Legacy of the “Shaw 14” and the civil rights movement > U.S. Army Central > News | U.S. Army Central
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