Joseph Gomer statue dedicated at ECC
NOTE: Scroll down for more photos.
An estimated 200 people attended the dedication ceremony this week for a new bronze statue honoring Major Joseph Philip Gomer on the Ellsworth Community College campus in Iowa Falls. Major Gomer, 92, participated via streaming video and cell phone from his residence in Duluth, MN.
Joe Gomer was born and raised in Iowa Falls, graduating from Iowa Falls High School in 1938 and Ellsworth Junior College in 1940. When Ellsworth offered flight instruction training, Gomer returned to the college to become a pilot. When World War II began, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was accepted into flight training at Tuskegee, Alabama, an air base established exclusively for African-American trainees. He earned his wings and commission as a Second Lieutenant and was sent to Italy as part of the 15th Air Force to an air base occupied only by Tuskegee airmen, whose job was flying protective cover for naval convoys, then for bombers, and attacking targets of opportunity. They became known as the “Red Tail Angels” for the distinctive red tail of their aircraft.
During their service on more than 311 missions (of which 179 were bomber escorts), the Red Tails shot down or destroyed 261 enemy planes, damaged 148, and sank one destroyer. The cost to the Red Tails were that 68 fellow airmen were killed in action and 32 were shot down or captured.
After the war, Major Gomer remained in military service, serving in Korea. He retired after 22 years of service. His fighter group eventually received the Congressional Gold Medal.
After retirement, Gomer became employed as a personnel officer with the U.S. Forest service in Duluth, where he worked for 21 more years. In retirement, he continue to serve his church and schools in the Duluth area, as well as remaining active in the Tuskegee Airmen’s Association.
Gomer was inducted into the Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame twice … as an individual in 2004 and again as a group with other former Red Tails. Also in 2004, he was presented with an Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from the Ellsworth College Board of Trustees. In 2009, Ellsworth Community College presented him with a Distinguished Alumni Award, also acknowledged by the American Association of Community Colleges.
In celebrating the service and accomplishments of Major Gomer prior to the unveiling, Charles (Chuck) Taylor noted, “In Joe’s path through life, he practiced tolerance, integrity, respect and compassion for others. That no matter what your race, gender, social or religious status, the opportunity exists to accomplish anything you want in life. Joe would be the first to acknowledge that this statue represents all Tuskegee Airmen and symbolizes the fighting spirit of all American service men and women.”
|Charles (Chuck) Taylor honors Major Joseph P. Gomer prior to the unveiling ceremony. Taylor's son is the artist who created the statue.|
|Mamie Singleton, Youth Initiative Aviation Academy, speaks to the crowd.|
|Leon Mehring, Wayne Zeigler and Robert Aguilera assisted with the unveiling.|
|Friends, fans and local dignitaries pose with the Gomer statue.|
|The statue is unveiled!|
|Hyman-Peavey American Legion Post 188, Iowa Falls, conducts the flag ceremony and a 21 gun salute.|
|The ECC Choir sings the National Anthem.|