(Editor’s Note: In the Thursday, November 29th issue of Vevay Newspapers, page A-1 carried a story about the passing of Eugene Smith, a resident of Switzerland County and a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. Following the publication of that article, Vevay Newspapers received a phone call from Ron Brewington, Tuskegee Airmen Historian, who wanted to clarify what he saw as inaccuracies in the story. Here is his email response to newspaper editor Pat Lanman).
Greetings, Pat. Nice talking to you this date regarding the article, “Eugene Smith, County Resident and Tuskegee Airman, Passes Away,”
As I indicated, there were errors in Paragraph 11, particularly that Smith was ignored and not invited to the official ceremony in Washington, DC. This is not true.
On March 29, 2007, all of the estimated 16-19,000 participants of the “Tuskegee Experience,” known as Tuskegee Airmen, were collectively, not individually awarded the Congressional Gold Medal (CGM) in a ceremony held inside the U. S. Rotunda. The 300 Tuskegee Airmen and widows who were present represented all of the Tuskegee Airmen. Following the ceremony, the one and only Tuskegee Airmen CGM was taken to the Smithsonian Institute (Air & Space Museum), where it currently still sits.
In March, 2011 Rep. Todd Young (9th-IN) presented documented original Tuskegee Airmen (DOTA) Eugene Smith a CGM bronze replica. The presentation of the CGM replica by a member of Congress has been held dozens of times since the original CGM was presented to the Tuskegee Airmen in 2007. It is super publicity for the Tuskegee Airmen, the recipient and, the member of Congress. Please click on the below link to see the names of all CGM recipients. Please note that it says “Tuskegee Airmen” and not Eugene Smith:
Please note that when the CGM ceremony was held, all of the estimated 16-19,000 participants were simultaneously honored. But there were many reasons why all of the participants were not present at the ceremony, including illness, death, not able to attend, U. S. Rotunda space limitations, etc. At the time of the ceremony, I was the National Public Relations Officer for Tuskegee Airman, Inc.. a non-profit organization (www.tuskegeeairmen.org) that is known as the go-to organization for locating and knowing Tuskegee Airmen. I was responsible for the total compilation of contact information for the 300 Tuskegee Airmen who attended the ceremony.
At no time was the name of Eugene Smith ever known to me nor TAI because he was not a member of the organization, nor was he known by the organization as a DOTA. Please understand that not all of the estimated 16-19,000 DOTAs are members of TAI. I constantly see media reports of a DOTA passing and note that he is/was not a member of TAI. As an example: former Indianapolis Colts Head Coach, now broadcaster Tony Dungy’s father was a DOTA. It is my understanding that he was not aware of his father ever being a DOTA until after his father died.
We hear this story many times over because not all of the DOTAs want to talk about their experiences during the “Tuskegee Experience.” But I assure you that if I knew about Smith’s existence, an invitation would have been extended to him. It was stated that “Smith never got the recognition for his service that he deserved, that he was not included in any of the national recognition of the Tuskegee Airmen and that he was not invited to the official ceremony held in Washington, D.C.” - Not true – I can’t speak for other persons or organizations, but I can say that if his existence was known that he would be invited to that and many other recognition events. He probably “remained under the radar for decades” which is probably the reason that Smith was omitted from any recognition.
It is requested that the above errors be corrected.
Please contact me for any questions at: (323) 533-1036 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuskegee Airmen Historian