Home > PIKLIZ ARCHIVES > FRIENDS @ FRIENDS. > 2010 Friends @ Friends > Raymond Cassagnol : Tuskegee Airman in Oviedo…

Raymond Cassagnol : Tuskegee Airman in Oviedo gets belated congressional honor.

Photos by : Rachel Mosoco Denis


orlando sentinel april 6th,2010

Tuskegee Airman in Oviedo gets belated congressional honor

First Haitian pilot in program missed 2007 ceremony
April 06, 2010|By Rachael Jackson, Orlando Sentinel
Raymond Cassagnol never set out to join the Tuskegee Airmen. He didn't plan to be the first Haitian to stand with nearly 1,000 other black pilots who helped break the U.S. military's color barrier in the sky.

Cassagnol, 89, explains the twists in his life with a Haitian saying: "What God has reserved for you, even a flood can't take it away."

Tuesday afternoon, he took his place in history as U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D- New Smyrna Beach, presented Cassagnol with a replica of the Congressional Gold Medal, a belated award that he missed when his fellow pilots were honored in 2007 by the president.

Though the Tuskegee Airmen are widely known for their historic flights during World War II, relatively little has been written about the handful of Haitians who graduated from the program. Cassagnol is thought to be the only one still alive.

"These guys just disappeared," said John Gay, who lives in Lake City and is immediate past president of the regional chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. "They fell off the radar."

Cassagnol's life has been filled with many surprises. One of the first came when as a young man he couldn't afford college and instead he applied to the Haitian military. When he showed an aptitude for working on airplanes, he was sent to Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama.

He first noticed segregation when he boarded a train in Miami and was directed to a car for people of color. During his training, he avoided trips to downtown Tuskegee, fearful of what would happen if he did something as minor as fail to yield to a white person on the sidewalk.

But he recalls his instructors fondly and said he was treated well during about six months of intensive training. It was routine for fuel to be cut off in the air, forcing student pilots to react to emergency conditions. Per tradition, after his first solo flight, his buddies dumped a bucket of ice water on his head.

"Your head was hot. They needed to cool it off," he explained.

After graduating in 1943, Cassagnol went back to Haiti, where he patrolled the island from the air to ward off Nazis. He left the Haitian Air Corps in 1946 and later exported lumber. When President Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier came to power, he says he got involved in the opposition.

In 2004 Cassagnol's memoir, Memoires d'un Revolutionnaire, was published in French.

Slideshow
DSC 0043
1
DSC 0043
503 views
 
148 148
2
148 148
412 views
 
154 154
3
154 154
458 views
 
195 195
4
195 195
490 views
 
001 1
5
001 1
408 views
 
003 3
6
003 3
433 views
 
007 7
7
007 7
410 views
 
008 8
8
008 8
755 views
 
009 9
9
009 9
410 views
 
011 11
10
011 11
466 views
 
013 13
11
013 13
315 views
 
014 14
12
014 14
333 views
 
015 15
13
015 15
401 views
 
017 17
14
017 17
362 views
 
018 18
15
018 18
350 views
 
020 20
16
020 20
366 views
 
024 24
17
024 24
358 views
 
025 25
18
025 25
354 views
 
026 26
19
026 26
394 views
 
029 29
20
029 29
370 views
 
030 30
21
030 30
412 views
 
032 32
22
032 32
446 views
 
034 34
23
034 34
531 views
 
036 36
24
036 36
364 views