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Robert Friend, One of the Last Tuskegee Airmen, Dies at 99

Monica Otayza
Jun 27, 2019
05:43 A.M.
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Retired US Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Fried has passed away at age 99. He was one of the last surviving members of the iconic Tuskegee Airmen that served during World War II.


Robert Friend’s daughter, Karen Crumlich, confirmed that her father passed away surrounded by his family and friends at age 99. He passed away due to sepsis, a condition that changes the way the body responds to an infection. Instead of fighting it, it ends up inflaming the body.

His Last Moments

During her dad’s last few moments, Crumlich shares that they spent it in prayer.

“We called the chaplain and we did a prayer, and during the prayer, right when we said amen, he took his last breath.”


Friend flew 142 combat missions for the US Army during World War II, which included missions in North Africa and Europe.

His Journey to the Army

He was born in Columbia, South Carolina in 1920, and attempted to enlist in the Army to fly before being turned down for being black. However, he didn’t let this rejection stop him from making his dream come true, and he took aviation courses at the Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.


Before the war, African-Americans were not allowed to fly for the US Military, but thanks to civil rights activists and movements, this was overturned in 1941 and the US Army Air Corps created an all-black squadron at the Tuskegee Army Airfield in Macon County, Alabama.

His Life after World War II

Aside from World War II, Friend also served during the Vietnam and Korea wars, before retiring from the army after 28 years of service. In love with what he was doing, Friend still utilized his expertise even after retirement.


 Robert worked on the production of space products for the Space Shuttle and later on, led a company that created components for the International Space Station. More than this, he even worked on weapon and missile development for the US Air Force.

His Last Military Ceremony

Thanks to his countless contributions to America, Friend will be buried with full military honors on the weekend of July 4th, a special weekend in America.

He now rests in peace with his wife, Anna, who was the inspiration for the painting of “Bunny” on his restored P-51 Mustang that he once flew.

Rest In Peace, Lt. Col. Robert Friend.


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