Tuskegee Airman John Edward Allen is dead and what he died from is even worse
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John Edward Allen, a New Mexico veteran, one of the original Tuskegee Airman during World War II and later earned honors for his service in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, has died after a long battle with cancer.
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The NAACP Albuquerque Chapter President Harold Bailey said Allen died from multiple myeloma. He was 84.
A long-time resident of New Mexico after retiring, Allen was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Forces right out of high school. At 17, he was assigned to the 332nd Fighter Wing of the Tuskegee Airmen – a group that broke racial barriers in World War II by becoming the first black aviators in the U.S. military.
He did not see combat in World War II but he later received the Air Force Commendation Medal for assisting in de-arming two dozen 500-pound bombs that were dropped from the wing of a B-52 being prepared for a Vietnam War mission.
In addition, Allen and about 300 original Tuskegee Airmen were awarded a Congressional Gold Medal in 2007.
Upon retiring, the Rio Rancho resident was a sought after speaker around New Mexico and founded in 2000 a local arm for the General Lloyd W. “Fig” Newton Chapter of the Tuskegee Airman.
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“History speaks for itself,” said Bailey. “He was a role model, not only for African-Americans, but for all Americans in general.”
Despite his accomplishments, Allen’s wife, Willie E. Allen, said her husband rarely talked about them unless he was asked.
“I didn’t even know he was a Tuskegee Airman until after we were married,” she said. “When I found out I started reading all about the Tuskegee Airmen. I was so proud of him.”
His wife also said Allen hardly talked about the racial discrimination he faced in the military.
“That was just not the type of person he was,” Allen said.
Last year, the veteran was a victim of a botched surgery that resulted in an eye infection and subsequently permanent scarring and vision impairment.
Family members said a memorial is being planned Aug. 13 at the African American Performing Arts Center.
Reviewed by: Dr. Melvin Gaskins