I have wondered, for a long time, about the high number of African-Americans who rushed to join the military after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Growing up in the 1920s and the 1930s must have been very difficult with the overt racism throughout the country. Yet, even with that, they joined in large numbers.
Robert Friend, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, had an answer for that when he was asked about it. He said, “Because I’m an American and it was the right thing to do.”
|Robert Friend, centered. Photo copyright by Auturo Interian|
Such an attitude about the United States is something rare these days with various groups pulling and pushing agendas that are more divisive than uniting. Everyone seems to have found a reason to condemn the United States. Except Robert Friend.
Robert Friend, who died June 21, was one of the last Tuskegee Airman, a group of African-American, no, make that American, fighter and bomber pilots, who displayed their devotion to the Unites States with their heroism during the Second World War. Their hope, when they returned, would be a greater acceptance of who they were before they left to fight. Some of that acceptance came, but only years later… but we still seem to have failed in the greater vision that men like Friend held for the country.
Rather than recap his accomplishments, something that I did not all that long ago, I will direct those of you who are interested in the background of this fantastic man to read it here:
His importance to us in the UFO community was his position as the one time chief of Project Blue Book. After a number of other officers, all of whom were hostile to the idea of alien visitation, and who operated more as caretakers than investigators, Robert Friend was given the assignment. He attempted to reorganize the project and move it into something more than it was. He eventually left that assignment and retired from the Air Force.
After the movie Red Tails was made about seven years ago, Friend found himself asked to speak to many groups about his experiences during the war. It was something he enjoyed, even though he was in his 90s. His daughter, Karen Friend Crumlich, who cared from him after his wife died, drove him to the speaking engagements. She too, recognized the greatness in her father.
Friend was a frequent visitor to the Palm Springs Air Museum, California, and was one of those who assisted in restoring a P-51 Mustang like those flown by the Tuskegee Airman. The aircraft at the museum was painted in the colors, and with the registration numbers of the plane Friend had flown.
I never met him in person, only speaking to him on the telephone, and then rarely. Unlike some, he was always courteous and tried to give complete answers to my questions. Although he had been the man in charge of Blue Book at one time, when the Air Force policy was to debunk and dismiss UFO reports, he seemed to have believed there was something more to them than delusion, illusion, misidentification and hoax. To me he hinted, and I stress that word, that there was more to Roswell than the remains of a weather balloon.
Robert Friend was the epitome of an American soldier and an American citizen. For those who would like to learn more about Robert Friend take a look at the following articles:
About the last thing that can be said about him is that we have lost a true American hero.
Robert Friend, dead at 99.