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Hiram Mann visits Joint Base Charleston (November 2012)

Hiram Mann (May 23, 1921[1] – May 17, 2014) was an American aviator, retired lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force, and member of the Tuskegee Airmen's 332nd Fighter Group, an elite squadron of African-American airmen during World War II. Mann flew forty-eight missions over Europe as a member of the 332nd Fighter Group during the war.[1] Mann was a member of the "Red Tails," as the Tuskegee Airmen were called at the time, so-called because the tails of the P-51D Mustangs flown by the African-American pilots in combat missions were painted crimson red.[1][2][3][4] (The term "Tuskegee Airmen" did not come into use until the creation of a veteran's organization in 1972).[2] Mann nicknamed his own fighter plane "The Iron Lady" after his wife.[1][4]

Early life[]

He was born in New York City on May 23, 1921.[1][2] His parents had moved north from Alabama to New York in search of better opportunities.[2] The family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, when Mann was still a toddler, where he attended integrated schools.[2] As a child, Mann dreamed of becoming a pilot, often building model aircraft.[2][4] By his own admission Mann thought he had little chance of piloting actual aircraft, telling a Florida newspaper in 2008, "We made model airplanes. I used to save my pennies to go to the hobby shop and buy balsa wood to make airplanes...I never thought I would have a chance to actually fly an airplane."[2]

Mann found work as a bellhop at the Hotel Cleveland after graduating from high school.[4] He told the hotel that he was 21 years old instead of his actual age, which was 18 at the time.[4] He left the hotel for a job at a steel-and-wire manufacturer when he learned that employment related to the defense industry would help delay mandatory military service.[2] However, the work at the factory proved exhausting and he soon left the position.[2] Mann also attended Philander Smilth College in Little Rock, Arkansas where he met and married his wife, Kathadaza "Kitty" Mann, in 1940.He was also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.[2][4] The couple returned to Cleveland after approximately one year, where Mann resumed his former job as a bellman at the Hotel Cleveland.[4]

Red Tails and World War II[]

Hiram Mann (standing second from left) and other Tuskegee Airmen at a briefing in Ramitelli, Italy (March 1945)

Hiram Mann, while still working as a bellman, hoped to fly for the United States as a pilot during World War II.[1][2] He faced a number of obstacles: his race, his marital status, and his level of education.[1] His first application was rejected because of his race. Mann wrote a letter to the U.S. War Department but was rejected, "The first letter of rejection I received said — in no uncertain terms — there were no facilities to train Negroes to fly in any branch of the American military service. That ticked me off."[1] Mann applied for a second time and received a second rejection because he was married and had completed only one year of college (the military wanted single men and required two years of college).[1][2] Mann recalled, "There I was with three strikes against me — [only] one year of college, married and black."[1][4]

Meanwhile, the U.S. government had begun training African-American aviators at Sharpe Field in Alabama in 1941.[2] Mann applied for third time.[4] Mann received a reply letter on December 7, 1942, saying that his application was on file and that he would be contacted when an opening becomes available.[4] He was finally accepted into the military pilot training program in 1943 on his third attempt, based on a series of mental and physical examinations.[1][4] His wife, Kathadaza, moved back with her parents in Chicago and finished college when her husband entered flight training program.[2] She worked as a high school teacher during the war.[2]

Mann completed his flight training and received his silver wings in June 1944 and became a "Red Tail," later known as the Tuskegee Airmen.[1][2][4] Mann flew 48 combat missions over Europe during the war.[1][2] Mann flew just two P-51D Mustang planes: He lost the first plane when it "was shot out from under me." He nicknamed both P-51Ds "Boss Lady"[2] and "The Iron Lady,"[1] which were affectionately named for his wife.[2] His flights included a number of strafing missions. He recalled the mission in 2008, "I could see silver streaks coming out from my plane. Then, I could see silver streaks flying past me. I thought, 'Gee, I'm flying faster than my bullets.' But in reality, it was the enemy's bullets coming back past me."[2]

Later life and career[]

Lt. Col. Hiram Mann poses with airmen outside a C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Charleston (November 2012)

Mann pursued a career in the U.S. Air Force after the war and then entered the civil service.[2] He retired from the military as a lieutenant colonel in 1972.[1] He completed his bachelor's degree utilizing the G.I. Bill and later obtained a master's degree as well.[2]

Hiram and Kitty Mann retired to Titusville, Florida, in 1974.[2] Mann spoke extensively on his experience as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen.[1] He often spoke at college campuses and school advocating for education and perseverance.[1] In 2005, he attended the unveiling of a bust of Charles P. Bailey, a fellow Tuskegee Airman, which was placed on display at the DeLand Naval Air Station Museum in Deland, Florida.[2] In 2013, he was one of four Tuskegee veterans who rode in a Model A Ford in Orlando, Florida's, Veterans Day Parade.[1][5]

Mann was one of just six Tuskegee Airmen to attend the dedication of the Tuskegee Airmen monument at the Orlando Science Center in 2013.[1] The Orlando monument is the first in the nation dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen.[1] An inscription on the plaque reads, "Their example inspires future generations to reach to the skies and to realize that all things are possible."

Hiram Mann died at a hospice in Titusville, Florida, on May 17, 2014, at the age of 92.[1] His wife of 71 and a half years, Kathadaza "Kitty" Mann, died March 2, 2012.[1][4] He was survived by his son, Gene Mann, and three grandchildren.[1]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 Hudak, Stephen (2014-05-18). "Lt. Col. Hiram Mann, one of the Tuskegee Airmen, dies in Florida hospice". Orlando Sentinel.,0,1569187.story. Retrieved 2014-06-16. 
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 Hatfield, Pat (2008-10-22). "World War II — Hiram Mann: Tuskegee Airman". West Volusia Beacon. Archived from the original on 2014-08-10. Retrieved 2014-06-16. 
  3. Hatfield, R. Norman (2014-05-18). "Mann, legendary Tuskegee Airman dies at age 92". Florida Today. Retrieved 2014-06-16. 
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 Lane, Marcia (2014-02-07). "Hiram Mann remembers days of flying with Tuskegee Airmen". Florida Times Union. Retrieved 2014-06-16. 
  5. Rodriguez, Erica (November 19, 2013). "'Red Tail' pilots a highlight at Veterans Day celebration". Retrieved August 3, 2014. 

External links[]

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