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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

Support grows to create Charles B. Hall memorial

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Plans are in the works to erect a memorial for World War II hero Charles B. Hall in this location in front of Brazil City Hall. Jason Moon Photo.
Ex-Brazil residents offer help, and challenge others, for the Charles B. Hall Memorial funding.

When former Brazil resident Ted Englehart, Indianapolis, heard about plans for the Charles B. Hall Memorial, he knew he wanted to help.

Englehart knew Hall while he was growing up as a nice, young man. Englehart said Hall was a "great guy" and athlete. He also knew some of the black families in Brazil.

"When I grew up, there was a fine community of black families," he said.

Hall attended college in Southern Illinois, and afterwards enlisted in the Air Force. Hall became one of the Tuskegee Airmen, an all-black group of airmen in Alabama.

Englehart said politics pushed for black pilots to be trained in flying and combat. Before Tuskegee, no black airmen were trained to fly.

Englehart said he was also an Air Force pilot in World War II and flew and trained in the same program as Hall, the class of 44-D.

"You can't imagine what it was like, the Army and Navy were somewhat integrated, but the Air Force was not," Englehart said.

He said Hall completed his training in basic flying and was commissioned to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the 99th Fighter Squadron. Hall flew a Curtis P-40, which were identified by their red, painted tails, or rudders.

Englehart said the tail was painted to identify planes in the air, some may have been checkered or solid color, but Tuskegee Airmen painted theirs red.

Englehart said the Tuskegee group had one function, to protect the bombers. As the bombers traveled into Southern Europe, the Tuskegee would provide air protection.

According to the website, African Americans, the squadron went from North Africa to the island of Pantelleria in the Mediterranean, on June 2, 1943. Hall, then a Captain, flew with his group toward Italy, protecting the bombers.

Hall received the Distinguished Flying Cross for shooting down a German fighter, making him the first black man to shoot down an enemy aircraft.

Englehart said after Hall shot down the German plane, the group continued to protect the bombers, adding they did a great job.

"It is important to know that while the Tuskegee Airmen escorted, no bombers were shot down," he said.

After the war, Hall, who was promoted to the rank of Major, moved to Oklahoma, where he died in 1971.

When Englehart found out about the memorial, he called around to some of his friends, many of whom are ex-Brazil residents. They decided to help.

Englehart said if the Clay County Foundation could approve a matching grant of up to $10,000, then he, and other ex-residents, are going to match it.

"I feel certain that Indianapolis' 'Brazil' people could match the Brazil commitment," he said.

Englehart has contacted the Indianapolis chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen and they want to help as well. He also said civic clubs and individual donations could be raised. He feels, together, everyone could make the memorial a reality.

Englehart wants people to know that his interest and involvement in Hall is not for publicity. He knew Hall and said he is trying to help remember an important figure in history who deserves to be given proper credit.

Englehart said some people have been saying he wanted to do this because of his family, which he wants people to know is not true.

Although his grandfather was a brother of Lewis McNutt, who gave the City of Brazil the fountain in front of City Hall, this is not his reason for helping raise funds for the memorial.

Remembering Hall's place in history, being the first black aviator to shoot down an enemy, was one reason, he said. Another was for all the black families in Brazil who didn't get any recognition for their accomplishments.

"I don't want any association or credit," he said. "I don't want anything from this."

Englehart believes this is the right thing to do, which is why he wants to encourage people to work together to help this great man receive the recognition he deserves.

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