Raymond Cassagnol, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the famed group of Black military aviators during World War II, died at age 102 on June 24 in Florida, according his daughter, Dominique Cassagnol Ballacchino. 

Tuskegee Airman Raymond Cassagnol in 1940s. (CAF Rise Above)

Cassagnol was one of three Haitian servicemen initially selected to join an experimental program in Tuskegee, Alabama, for Black soldiers seeking to train as pilots after the Army Air Corps was forced to admit Black Americans. 

The Haitian serviceman wrote in his memoir that he was shocked by the prejudice he encountered in the American South and opted to stay close to the training field. 

“During that time, color prejudice was in full swing, and even the church did not escape segregation: Whites in the front, blacks in the back. Nevertheless, the choir members were blacks, and the soprano was applauded at the end of Mass. This is why I was careful not to frequent places where I could be humiliated,” he wrote in “Memoires d’un Revolutionnaire.” 

Cassagnol graduated from the Tuskegee program and received his pilot wings on July 28, 1943. He returned to Haiti and flew missions for his country, patrolling for submarines. 

Raymond Cassagnol at age 100. (miami-airport.com)

A revolutionary who opposed the brutal Duvalier dictatorship, Cassagnol later immigrated to the United States in 1960s to keep his family safe. 

“I fought all the dictators,” he told the Orlando-Sentinel in 2000 of his service during and after World War II. 

Ballacchino said her father was courageous and dedicated to his family and the cause of Haiti. 

“He never gave up. He never gave up. He was always a fighter,” Ballacchino said.