Pensacola has a rich history of African American aviators, and most of them have served in various branches of the military service as pilots.
While most of us have heard of General Daniel "Chappie" James Jr. and his story, many have never heard of Lt. James Polkinghorne Jr.
Born June 16th, 1921 in Pensacola, he was a graduate of Washington High school.
As he was getting ready to enter his senior year at Florida A&M College, he enlisted in the military. He earned his silver wings in February 1943 and became a combat pilot assigned to the 301st Fighter Squadron, one of four squadrons that made up the all black 332nd Fighter Group.
He reported to Tuskegee Army Air Field in July 1942 and was assigned to Class 43-B along with 20 other class members. Upon completion of advanced training, only seven members of his class remained, and he was commissioned a 2nd Lt and awarded his silver wings on February 16, 1943.
He was the flight leader of a squadron of fighter planes when he was shot down over Italy on May 5th, 1944. He was later declared dead and posthumously awarded a Purple Heart medal.
Lt Polkinghorne's name is included on the Tablets of the Missing at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Italy and he is listed on the Tallahassee Aviation Wall of Fame inside the Tallahassee International Airport.
The General Daniel "Chappie" James Flight Academy would like to salute and thank Lt. Polkinghorne for his service and personal sacrifice. We are currently on an endeavor to find his remains in Italy, and bring him home to Pensacola.
His story is told is a book entitled "Lost in Heaven" by Leo Murphy.