‘Devotion’s’ director had an ace in the hole: his father, a Black Blue Angel pilot and a former member of the elite Black Blue Squadron. That squadron had been known as “the Flying Tigers” during the 1930s before the U.S. entered World War II.
The Black Blue Angel was one of the Navy’s best flying fliers. He was one of the very first African Americans to become a naval aviator, and he rose from lowly ensign to captain. A Navy pilot, he also served as commander of a flight squadron.
Like many black aviators, he was a World War I veteran, and like the Black Blue Squadron, his experience as a combat pilot with airplanes in combat in France earned him a purple heart. In World War I, his squadron flew the P-12 in battles in northern France, Belgium, and northern Germany.
The Black Blue Angel’s father told a history of the Black Blue Squadron, and his experiences as a black aviator flying the P-12 when he was a young man. He said, “Black Blue took a lot of pride in his squadron…. He was the first black pilot in the U.S. Navy.”
After the war ended in 1918, he returned to aviation. He became a test pilot and flew many different types of aircraft, including biplanes, until he was selected to fly the P-40E fighter. He was a black flight officer. In 1930, he became a lieutenant commander and commanded a flight squadron. The squadron was disbanded in 1936.
As a test pilot, he was involved in the production of the P-3, the Navy’s first all-black fighter aircraft. He had a distinguished career as a test pilot, working on the P-3.
There’s a story about how he was asked to lead the first group of black test pilots to fly the P-3 in 1938. He was told that if he had the necessary skills, he could lead