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Robert Friend (2019), one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen

Getty Images / Kevin Winter

Later directed the Air Force’s Project Blue Book which investigated UFOs

Robert Friend was one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen who later directed the United States Air Force’s Project Blue Book which investigated UFOs. Friend flew 142 combat missions during World War II as a member of the first group of African-American fighter pilots.  Later, he became an operations officer for both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. From 1958 until 1963, he directed Project Blue Book, the USAF initiative that investigated UFO sightings. After retiring, Friend would go to schools and community centers to talk about his time with the Tuskegee Airmen.

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Died: Friday, June 21, 2019 (Who else died on June 21?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 99.

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A World War II adventure: Facing mechanical difficulties and bad weather, he had to bail out and parachute down in the mountains of Italy. He told the Washington Post, “I hit the side of the mountain, slid down to the ground and saw a woman running to me with a knife in her hand. In an act of wartime desperation, she simply wanted the silk from my parachute.”

What they said about him: “An American hero. Robert Friend may you Rest In Peace.” —Dan Rather

Full obituary: Washington Post

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