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Retired Lt. Col. Enoch “Woody” Woodhouse II, Tuskegee Airman, delivers a keynote speech to Soldiers and Civilians at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School auditorium at Fort Bragg, N.C., on Feb. 25, 2019.

Retired Lt. Col. Enoch “Woody” Woodhouse II, Tuskegee Airman, delivers a keynote speech to Soldiers and Civilians at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School auditorium at Fort Bragg, N.C., on Feb. 25, 2019. (Ken Kassens/U.S. Army)

HUDSON, Mass. (Tribune News Service) — On Dec. 7, 1941, Enoch “Woody” Woodhouse was walking to Sunday church when his mother asked her two sons to do one thing after hearing of the attack on Pearl Harbor earlier that day: Enlist in the military and serve their country.

“My mother, a Black woman in an America where in the 1920s and 1930s our people were being lynched, asked us to go out and defend the American system,” said Woodhouse, who rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Army Air Corps. “And we did.”

Woodhouse spoke during an event Friday at the American Heritage Museum in Hudson to honor his 95th birthday. The gathering served as a fundraiser to restore a Fairchild PT-19A, a training aircraft for the Tuskegee Airmen in Alabama during World War II.

A dinner for Woodhouse followed — complete with a color guard musket salute conducted by the Sudbury Companies of Militia and Minute — at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury.

Citing the tolerance taught by his Methodist upbringing, Woodhouse said he never had any hesitation about joining the military.

On his 17th birthday in 1944, Woodhouse’s parents signed his enlistment papers allowing the Roxbury native to serve in the Army Specialized Training Reserve Program.

Woodhouse became a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of mostly African American fighter pilots who served during World War II and were active until 1948. Pilots were educated at the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), near Tuskegee, Alabama. He is one of just a few still living.

Woodhouse’s younger brother, Edward, joined the Montford Point Marines, another African American division of the military.

“Black history is not Black history to me — it is American history,” said Woodhouse on Friday. “Even though Black people are victims in America, they are also benefactors.”

After the war, Woodhouse practiced law starting in 1960 at his firm in Boston. In 1988, he joined the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, the veterans organization that put together Friday’s event at the American Heritage Museum.

“(Woodhouse) used to come way back to my grandfather’s store in Chinatown and always left a great impression as a very friendly and soft-spoken man,” said Wilson Wong, a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company. “Even at 95, he’s at every event.”

Based in Boston, the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company was founded in 1638 and participates in national holiday celebrations, representing Massachusetts and the nation overseas, according to its website.

On Friday, members collected an entrance fee to raise the $150,000 needed to preserve the Fairchild PT-19A, currently stored in Smyrna Beach, Florida, according to the American Heritage Museum website.

To meet Woodhouse, a line of guests formed in front of another trainer plane, the Boeing PT-17 Tuskegee Stearman, next to which Woodhouse held up his index and middle fingers on both hands signaling two Vs.

For Tuskegee Airmen, that was the hand sign that sought two victories.

“Military Black people had to defeat Nazism abroad and racism at home,” said Woodhouse. “Through these artifacts, young people have to know how strong America can be when we’re united as one force to accomplish one objective.”

(c)2022 MetroWest Daily News, Framingham, Mass.

Visit MetroWest Daily News at www.metrowestdailynews.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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