Tuskegee Airman, NJ Native, Dies

Calvin Spann, a New Jersey native and one of the original Tuskegee airmen, died Sunday at his home in Texas. He was 90.

Spann, who was born Nov. 28, 1924, and grew up in Rutherford, volunteered for the Army Air Corps and was sent to Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1943 to start aviation cadet training. He was sent to Italy as a replacement combat pilot after completing his training.

Lt. Spann flew 26 combat missions over Nazi Germany.

As a fighter pilot, he participated in the longest bomber escort mission in 15th Air Force history: a 1,600-mile, round-trip mission, from Ramitelli, Italy, to Berlin.

The objective was to destroy Daimler-Benz manufacturing plant. They were awarded Presidential Unit Citation for the mission and credited with destroying three German Me-262 jet fighters and damaging five more.

But after the war, Spann never flew again. Though he was enlisted in the Air Force Reserves, he was denied the opportunity to maintain his flying hours to keep his pilot’s license. He left the reserves in 1961.

Spann was inducted in to the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame in 2006. That same year, Congress awarded the Tuskegee Airmen a Congressional Gold Medal.

Memorial services are being arranged in Texas and New Jersey, said his niece, Linda Smallwood-Greene. 

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story reported that Spann's birthday was on Aug. 28. He was born on Nov. 28, 1924.

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