Once Upon A Time At Ramitelli – Some 180 White Crew Men Saved

Haitian-Tuskegee Airman Receives Medal – April 6, approved 2010
(A Haitian connection to America’s aviation history)

More than 65 years ago, prescription Raymond Cassagnol, viagra order was one of five Haitian-Tuskegee Airmen to earn his pilot wings at Tuskegee Army Air Field (Alabama). The first to graduate, Class 43-G (July1943), today he is the last surviving Haitian-Tuskegee Airman. The efforts of Zellie Rainey Orr in February 2010 led to the location of Cassagnol and procurement of his medal. Videographer, 16 yearold, Nia Haley Orr.

To his knowledge, he’s the last airman remaining of the six Haitians sent for pilot training at Tuskegee Institute inTuskegee, Ala. And he laments that he limited his contacts with that hallowed ground of aviation training history since the war ended. “When you haven’t seen something in a long time, it looks small to the imagination. That’s why Tuskegee is just a ‘remembrance field’ to me now,” he said. “One day, a friend who was in the American military said he saw my picture in the Smithsonian,” Cassagnol said. “I said, ‘I’d like to see that.’ I went, and there it was. Haitians are part of American aviation history.”

Cassagnol was one of three airnen who left Haiti for America in January 1943. He’s still alive, but the others met different fates in life. One was involved in an attack on the Haitian presidential palace in the 1960s. He was killed and dragged through the streets. The other was arrested after he retired. Nobody knew whathappened to him after that. Source: Article Airman, Feb, 2002 by John B. IV Dendy

Born in Port au Prince on September 20, 1920. In 1942, he enrolled in the Haitian Army, when Elie Lescot government announced the formation of the Haitian Air Force (Corpsd’Aviation). Shortly thereafter, he was assigned to the maintenance department as a mechanic.

His devotion to his work did not go unnoticed by Major Eshelman, director of the Corps. In February 1943, Raymond was given the opportunity to be trained as pilot. With S/Lt. Philippe Celestinand Alix Pasquet, he left Haiti to attend the training at theTuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. He graduated as well as the other officers Fighter Pilots and returned to Haiti to serve his country.

In 1947 he obtained his pilot private commercial license and worked as pilot for the Dauphin Plantation. In the 50’ he ventured in the preparation of lumbers for construction and put together a Lumber factory in the Plateau Central. To provide an adequate support of the-day-to-day operation of the plant, he acquired a small airplane (BT-13) for quick access to Port-au-Prince in less than half hour, instead of the two to three day commute on ground transportation. A field of 1200 feet long was prepared for landing and take off. The authorization to fly given by Cerca-La-Source military center was not an issue and the back and forth over the island by Raymond became routine.

Several members at the Army Headquarters did not like the idea and clearance to fly could only be granted by them in Port au Prince. It became harder and harder for Raymond to obtain the authorization to fly and the airplane was most of the time on the ground and was becoming a burden for the factory. To avoid further complication, Raymond decided to sell the BT-13 to the only possible buyer, the Aviation Corps of Haiti. The field used as one way, so beneficial short and long term to the community and the region was left abandoned. The airplane was used by the Corpsd”Aviation in the transport of mail and passengers for a long time thereafter.

On October 08, 1962 fearing for his life as well as his family’s safety, Raymond crossed the Dominican border to seek political asylum. The assassination of Truijilo several months earlier made it possible. On May 1969, Raymond was one of the pilots of theB-25 that dropped the bombs over Duvalier in the National palace. (See a page of History May 20, 1964)The Raymond Cassagnol’s book, Mémoires d’un Révolutionnairel; “A slice of the Haitian political life 1937 to 1988 (http://www.fordi9.com/Pages/AffairCassagnol.htm)

Once Upon A Time At Ramitelli – Some 180 White Crew Men Saved

by Zellie Rainey Orr

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not reflect the policy or position of Tuskegee Airmen, adiposity
Inc. or its Affiliates

“…In a synopsis, generic while on Control Tower Operator duty at Ramitelli Air Base in early June 1944 by constantly scanning the sky for aircraft in trouble I noticed what appeared to be a lost flight of USAAF bombers by the lead bomber dropping emergency flares over what he reckoned was friendly territory and airstrips and by immediately interrogating the lead bomber by green light I learned there was a squadron of planes requiring emergency landing with seriously wounded aboard.


I directed the group into a safe landing and in the meantime alerted local medics to meet the lost planes and care for the wounded.  A general’s son was in the landing group. For my actions a Fifteenth Air Force general officer addressed a letter through channels to my unit expressing appreciations for my actions as the on-duty tower operator.  A copy of this letter was read to me by a unit officer but was never placed in my files nor I given a copy, pharmacy
this in spite of my effecting a life-saving action on my own volitions and alertness.


Another occasion on which I effected a life-saving action for lost bombers was in late December of 1944 at Ramitelli Air Base during inclement weather with zero visibility. I took note of wind conditions and zero ceiling common to Ramitelli so as to bring all these aircraft in for a safe landing. Again the Fifteenth Air Force command sent a letter of commendation and appreciation for my attentiveness and diligence with these disabled flight crews. Again the letter was read to me about my involvement but no copy was appended for my files.

…I shall simply summarize my request to you by stating that I feel my case should not pass on to history without granting me the small recognition here asked and is due and owing to me.”



The above excerpt is part of a two-page letter written by Mr. William Paul Bostic on January 10, 1998, to Mr. Robert Gardner, Chief of Military Claims, VFW, (Wash., DC).


Thus my pursuit to validate Mr. Bostic’s claim and aid the effort to honor his wishes. As a result, my research has unearthed WWII documents and survivors whose recall of the December event, 65 years ago, still echo in their memories.

The weather was notorious and unyielding that fateful day, December 29, 1944. Returning from a mission (veered in the wrong direction), some eighteen B-24 bomber crews headed toward the Mediterranean. Running low on fuel, their chance of survival was zero to none. Juggling a forced landing of “the heavies” at Ramitelli [on an airstrip built for fighters] and their own “red-tail” pilots returning from a mission, helped save the lives of 180 white strangers. Stranded for five days at the Negro base…living, eating, sleeping with blacks, forged a historical milestone and a lesson in humanity.

Sgt. William P. Bostic,
332nd Fighter Group, 301st Fighter Squadron
in control tower, March 1945 at Ramitelli

(Photo by Toni Frissell, Library of Congress)

Col. Jack P. Tomhave
Commander, 485th Bombardment Group
[17 of the 18-known Bomb Crews were from the 485th Bombardment Group]
Col. Tomhave sent a Letter of Appreciation, verbiage below]

(Photo Courtesy of Jerry Whiting)


485th Bombardment Group (H)

APO 520     US ARMY

6 January 1945.

Major E. D. Jones, Jr.

366th Air Service Squadron

APO 520,  US Army

Dear Major Jones,

On behalf of the Officers and Enlisted Men of the 485th Bombardment Group, I want to personally thank you for the courtesy and assistance which you and the personnel of the 366th Air Service Squadron so splendidly offered to our crews which landed at your base on 29 December 1944. I fully realize what an inconvenience this forced landing must have made on your facilities, and the remarkable manner in which you people of the 15th Fighter Command rose to the situation is all the more commendable.

The very able assistance which your Service Squadron has given to the 332nd Fighter Group is well known, and now you have proven yourselves just as capable in servicing our heavy bombers.

Sincerely yours,

/s/Jack  P. Tomhave.


Colonel, Air Corps,