2019 Phoenix Veteran’s Day Parade event
HONOR OUR HEROES PROGRAM
Lt. Col. Robert “Bob” Ashby (ret.)
Lt. Colonel, U.S. Army
World War II Veteran Grand Marshal
Robert Ashby, a Tuskegee airman and first black captain for Frontier Airlines was born July 17, 1926, in Yemassee, S.C. After his father passed away, Bob and his mother Lillian Ashby, moved to Jersey City, N.J., along with his brother, James, and sister, Elizabeth.
As a student in high school, Ashby began to investigate pilot training after hearing of the experiences of black pilots in the 99th. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps at age seventeen as a candidate for the Aviation Cadet program. He was called to active duty in August 1944 after graduating from Ferris High School in Jersey City, N.J. Later, he received college training with the University of Maryland and U.C.L.A through the ‘on-base’ College Program. Ashby was assigned to Keesler Field, Mississippi for basic training and testing for entry into the Aviation Cadet program. In December 1944 Ashby was sent to Tuskegee, Alabama to begin cadet raining.
As a cadet, he flew the Stearman PT-17, AT-6, and the B-25. Ashby graduated as a second lieutenant with the Tuskegee Class of 45-H on November 20, 1945. Ashby was assigned to Japan as a part of the U.S. occupying force. On his arrival in Japan, Ashby found he was assigned to two white flying outfits, neither of which would accept him in their unit because he was black and the Army was segregated at the time.
Second Lieutenant Ashby was removed from pilot status and assigned to a black company in the Quartermaster Department in Tokyo, Japan. In May 1949, Ashby was assigned to the black unit at Lockbourne Air Field, Ohio where he was reinstated to flying status. President Harry S. Truman integrated the armed forces, and Ashby was assigned to Wright Patterson Air Force Base in August 1949 for a short tour. Later, he was assigned to a Reserve Troop Carrier Wing at Cleveland Municipal Airport. Here he trained in the T-6 and C-46 aircraft. In 1952, Ashby flew B-26’s for a year of combat in Korea while stationed at K-8. In 1956, in England, Ashby flew the T-33, B-45 and B-66. He trained in the B-47 aircraft and became a B-47 instructor. Reaching the status of Lieutenant Colonel, Robert Ashby retired honorably from the U.S. Air Force in July 1965, after 21 years of fighting racial problems as well as the enemies of America.
Robert “Bob” Ashby started his commercial aviation career in 1965 with United Airlines as one of their flight operations instructors. He taught in the classroom the airplane simulator for the 727 aircraft. In 1968, Ashby helped to write the training program for the 747 aircraft. His group wrote the curriculum, formulated the objectives, wrote the manuals, and instructed the crews in the classroom subjects, simulator and aircraft skills.
In 1973, Ashby was employed by Frontier Airlines as a pilot, flying as a second officer, first officer, and then as a captain. He was the first black pilot hired by Frontier Airlines. He flew various aircraft with Frontier, including the Tin Otter, Convair 580, Boeing 737, and MD-80.
Robert Ashby holds an outstanding record of precision, quality, courtesy, and safety with Frontier Airlines with over 20,000 flying hours. He is the first black pilot to reach mandatory retirement age (60 years) with a major airline. Robert Ashby retired on July 17, 1986, while flying as Captain of the Boeing 737.
Williams Field High School
Teacher: David Vaughn
Every year, Phoenix hosts an annual Veterans Day Parade. Veterans Day, originally called Armistice Day, began on November 11th, 1919, a year after WWI ended. In 1926, Congress passed a resolution for an annual observance which allowed Veterans Day to become a national holiday beginning in 1938. Since then, we thank our soldiers who put their lives on the line to protect our freedom and our country. In this essay, I will be explaining how Veterans Day was formed and why we observe it.
World War I ended on November 11th, 1918, with 116,708 American soldiers losing their lives. In 1919, America proudly began honoring its veterans with its first Armistice Day Parade in New York City. In 1954, the Veterans Service Organization urged congress to replace the word Armistice with Veterans due to the additional wars of World War II and the Korean War. Today, Veterans Day is celebrated from small towns to large cities all with the purpose of honoring and showing appreciation to those who have served. It’s a chance for everyone to put aside petty differences and unite for a common cause in order to properly thank our Veterans.
Our service personnel deserve our utmost respect throughout the year and Veterans Day is an opportunity to remind everyone of that fact. Soldiers risk their lives to protect us and our rights so that we don’t have to. They defend our freedoms we enjoy in this country and they have a positive influence on our next generation of service personnel. My neighbor, Mark Billingsley, who was a Navy Pilot would always talk to me about what he did in the military and how his experiences shaped him into who he is today. I asked him what America would be like if we didn’t have a military and he responded with, “We would be speaking German or Japanese. The USA wouldn’t exist without a military, we would just be a conquered nation in the dustbin of conquered nations that no longer exist. From WWII history alone, Germany was close winning had our military not joined the fight in Italy.” The America we all know, and love would not exist without these brave soldiers defending our country.
I personally have been strongly influenced by the Armed Forces since I was very young. Holding these parades has allowed me to witness these brave men and women who have served our country and put their lives on the line for our safety and freedom. Realizing what these soldiers have done for us has influenced me to want to serve my country and I have elected to enlist with the Air Force National Guard. I am excited to dedicate myself to military service in order to sustain our country’s values that have been so honorably preserved by our Veterans. Veterans Day is truly remarkable.