Oct 1, 2012 9:11 PM by Matt Stafford

Remembering WWII - Frank Macon's passion to become a pilot

"I just always wanted to fly airplanes," says Frank Macon, a Tuskegee Airman. "Any airplane would go over and I was out looking at it."

That was growing up for Macon in Colorado Springs in the 20s and 30s. He lived on Pine Street with his two aunts; around the corner was something special for Macon.

"There was a guy building an airplane in there, and this fella happened to be Afro-American," says Macon. "A lot of times I didn't make it to Sunday school, I was there watching him build that airplane."

That passion drove Macon through his life, and his struggle to become a military pilot in a time that was difficult for African Americans.

Colorado Springs will soon be home to a brand new national World War II aviation museum. The grand opening is October 13th; it's located at 765 Aviation Way, backing right up to the runways at the Colorado Springs Airport.

The museum focuses on not only the planes that helped win the war, but also the community effort that made victory possible. That effort was evident across the country, and in southern Colorado.

News 5 has had the opportunity to sit down with some local men and women who played a role in that fight; including Macon.

Macon didn't get his first chance to fly until high school. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7th 1941, the U.S. Civil Air Patrol grew, and that's where Macon got his chance.

Before 1940 African Americans had been barred from flying in the U.S. military, but then, in 1941, an all-African American squadron of the Army Air Corps was started in Tuskegee, Alabama.

Macon lied about his age and was accepted into the Tuskegee program, but got kicked out when they discovered he was only 18. Two years later he was back.

"All I was interested in was getting in that aircraft and flying," says Macon. He put up with a lot in the process.

"Just the least little thing and they were washing guys out," describes Macon. "There was an old saying, 'They washed out better pilots at Tuskegee than they graduated any place else.'"

Macon says of the 50 to 75 guys that started with him, only about 10 made it through. Macon was one of them, but he never saw combat. During training late in the war, in 1945, he ruptured his eardrums and was put in the hospital.

"By the time I got out of the hospital and went back, the war was over with," recalls Macon.

Now he's excited for the opening of the new National Museum of World War II Aviation in Colorado Springs, and he's hopeful for the message it gets across to future generations.

Macon was able to become a pilot in a tough time, and he says that's because of his passion.

"I know every part of this aircraft, and I know how every part works and what it's for," says Macon. That's what he wants kids to find today - their passion.

"Every one of us has something that we can contribute," says Macon. "So get out of my way! Let me alone! Let me do my thing!"

Those are words to live by; Frank Macon sure has.

For more on the National Museum of World War II Aviation, click here.

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