By Earl Heath
Lt. Col Robert J. Friend is the ultimate Veteran having served his country during WWII. A brief overview of his life goes like this:
Robert J. Friend was born in Columbia, South Carolina on February 28, 1920. In 1939, he became a student at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he earned a private pilot certificate in the Civilian Pilot Training Program. In 1942, Mr. Friend joined the Air Force and was sent to Tuskegee Institute for pilot training.
After receiving his wings as an Air Force Pilot, Mr. Friend was promoted to a Lieutenant and at that time was assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group as a pilot under Col. B.O. Davis, Jr. He was then sent to Schlfridge Air Force Base in Michigan for flight tactical aircraft transition before his combat tour. In 1943, Lieutenant Friend reported to the European Theatre of War as a member of Tuskegee Airmen’s Distinguished 322nd Group, which was a Fighter Pilot Organization. As a skillful pilot of the P47 and P51 single engine planes, Lieutenant Friend flew as the wing man for the Commander of the group, Col. B.O. Davis. Lt. Col. Friend also served as Combat Operations Officer at the Squadron and Group levels.
Friend in 2015 turning 95 years old, holding the record as one of the oldest living original Tuskegee Airmen. President Barak Obama, former President George W. Bush and General Mark Welsh III of the United States Air Force acknowledged the occasion by sending their personal birthday wishes to Friend.
“On behalf of the men and women of the United States Air Force, happy 95th birthday! You belong to a treasured generation of selfless Airmen and your service continues to inspire our Airmen today. The Tuskegee Airmen, especially Red Tail pilots, proved time and time again to be among the most courageous trailblazers of America’s “Greatest Generation,” and we celebrate your role in that elite group.”-General Welsh
This year Friend was recognized at A USC home game a Hero.inf front of 90.000 at the LA Coliseum.t. Col. Friend is a master bridge player who is well known and respected nationally, and often competes in national tournaments in his spare time.
Lt. Col. Friend resides in Irvine California. He has 7 children and numerous grand, great-grand, great-great grandchildren.