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Capt Wendell O. Pruitt

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Capt Wendell O. Pruitt

  • Birth 20 Jun 1920 Saint Louis, St. Louis City, Missouri, USA
  • Death 15 Apr 1945 Tuskegee, Macon County, Alabama, USA
  • Burial Normandy, St. Louis County, Missouri, USA
  • Plot Section 29, Lot 192
  • Memorial ID 22511

Captain, United States Army Air Force World War Two fighter pilot, member of the Tuskegee airman, was the youngest of ten children born to Elijah and Melanie Pruitt in St. Louis, Missouri attending local schools. After graduation from Sumner High School he enrolled in Lincoln University in Jefferson City, and was pledged to the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Subsequent to the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enrolled in pilot training class at Tuskegee Army Air Field graduating in class 42-K-SE on December 13, 1942, with the rank of Second Lieutenant, becoming a member of a group of fighter pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen. Pruitt was assigned to the 302nd pursuit squadron of the United States Army Air Corps 332nd Fighter Group, an all Black squadron that was formed by order of President Franklin Roosevelt during a time in America's history when there was a separation of the races. They were deployed to the European Theater flying the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, a single-seat fighter aircraft. On one mission, Pruitt and his wingman, Gwynne Peirson, spotted, dove upon and attacked a German navy vessel in the harbor of the Italian port of Trieste sinking it. Pruitt was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross as a result of this action. Since the primary mission of the 302nd Fighter Squadron was bomber escort protecting Allied bombers from attacks by enemy aircraft, the squadron was ungraded to flying the North American P-51 b/c model fighter, a lighter, faster, more maneuverable, lethal aircraft. The tails of the planes were painted red earning them the nickname ‘The Red Tail' squadron. It was reported that Red Tail squadron fighter protection was so good that no Allied bombers were lost to enemy fighter attacks while escorted by those pilots. While based at the Ramitelli airbase in Italy, he was paired with wingman Lee Archer. On one bomber escort mission, Pruitt flying a plane he named ‘Alice-Jo', a common practice at the time, and Archer flying ‘Ina, the Macon Belle' shot down five enemy fighters between them with Pruitt downing two German Messerschmitt, bf-109 fighter planes and Archer three. The pairing of Pruitt and Archer, nicknamed the "Gruesome Twosome", was the most successful pair of Tuskegee pilots in terms of air combat victories with their exploits dramatized in a History Channel episode entitled ‘Dogfights: Tuskegee Airmen. Promoted to the rank of Captain and after having downed three enemy fighter aircraft he was deployed back to the United States to train new pilots. On April 15, 1945, during one of the training missions, Pruitt and a trainee were killed in an air accident. After his death, the city of St. Louis named the Pruitt-Igoe public housing project after Captain Pruitt and William L. Igoe, a former United States Congressman.

Bio by: Connie Nisinger





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 24 May 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 22511
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Capt Wendell O. Pruitt (20 Jun 1920–15 Apr 1945), Find A Grave Memorial no. 22511, citing Saint Peter's Cemetery, Normandy, St. Louis County, Missouri, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .