Tuskegee Airman Discusses Distinguished Service
by NUWC Newport Public Affairs Office
February 16, 2023
One of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen,
Brig. Gen. Enoch “Woody” Woodhouse, visited the Naval Undersea
Warfare Center Division Newport (NUWC Newport) on February 6, 2023 to share his
military and life experiences with the workforce, as part of the
command’s Black History Month celebration.
World War II veteran Tuskegee Airman Brig. Gen. Enoch “Woody” Woodhouse shares some of the many obstacles he faced in the military during a talk held on February 6, 2023, as part of Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport celebration of Black History Month. The 96-year-old Roxbury, Massachusetts, native spoke with insight, sentimentality, and humor, as he conveyed how he joined the legendary all-Black fighter pilot unit. (U.S.
Navy photo by Richard Allen, NUWC Newport)
The 96-year-old Roxbury, Massachusetts,
native spoke with insight, sentimentality, and humor, as he conveyed
how he joined the legendary all-Black fighter pilot unit and dealt
with racism within and outside of the military.
“It is very
exciting to have Brig. Gen. Enoch ‘Woody’ Woodhouse with us today.
This is a real piece of American history,” Division Newport
Commanding Officer Capt. Chad Hennings said, when introducing the
Woodhouse began his presentation by recalling
a date that would change his life forever ... December 7, 1941 ... the day
Pearl Harbor was attacked.
“My mother said to my brother and
I, ‘America is at war. I want you boys to serve your country,’”
Woodhouse said. “Imagine a Black woman telling all she had in the
world, her two sons, to fight for America while we grew up seeing
pictures of Black people being lynched and mistreated.”
age 17, Woodhouse enlisted in the U.S. Army and eventually served in
the U.S. Army Air Corps, the precursor to the U.S. Air Force. His
brother became one of the first Black Marines.
“You do the
right thing, no matter what your circumstances are,” Woodhouse said.
“So what was the right thing? We signed up. I was going off to
defend democracy, which perhaps didn’t defend me, but I did the
It didn’t take long for Woodhouse to realize
that doing the right thing, wouldn’t always be easy.
never been farther south than New York City, Woodhouse was traveling
on a train from Boston to Texas for basic training. However, when
the train reached a scheduled stop in St. Louis, a white conductor
tapped him on the shoulder and made him disembark.
“I was the
only Black guy on a train full of kids fresh out of high school,”
Woodhouse said. “The guy tapped me not-so-gently on the shoulder and
said ‘get off the train.’ So I got off the train with my duffle bag
and $8 in my pocket.”
A Black porter informed Woodhouse that
Black people weren’t allowed to ride that train. The train he was
allowed to ride arrived six hours later, causing him to show up late
for his assignment, much to the chagrin of his white drill sergeant.
After basic training, Woodhouse was transferred to the U.S. Army
Air Corps in Ogden, Utah, where he was assigned to Squadron F, an
all-Black squadron. Squadron F primarily did housekeeping, such as
upkeep of the roads and peeling potatoes for the unit. Woodhouse was
fortunate to get one of the more coveted jobs as a waiter in the
“It had its advantages,” Woodhouse said. “I
got to eat good food and take good food back to the barracks. I
shared my steaks.”
Woodhouse, who spoke several languages,
always kept his favorite book close by ... a book written by
14th-century Italian poet/writer Dante Alighieri, who is most famous
for writing “Inferno.” While cleaning the Officer’s Club one
evening, a lieutenant spotted the book. When he learned that it
belonged to Woodhouse, the impressed lieutenant told him he would
help him apply for Officer Candidate School.
second lieutenant at age 19, Woodhouse was assigned to the 332nd
Fighter Group, better known as the Tuskegee Airmen, where he became
paymaster/finance officer for the squadron, which consisted of 992
pilots and more than 14,000 other personnel. The squadron was led by
Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr. and compiled an outstanding record in
combat during World War II.
“It was a trustworthy position
because you were paid by cash,” Woodhouse said. “Every person was
supposed to be paid on the first of the month. But a lot of our
Black troops would be sent on TDY (temporary duty assignment). When
they presented their orders to be paid by the first of the month,
they were told the finance office doesn’t have sufficient funds or
the finance office closes at 2 o’clock. Colonel Davis flew me out to
every place where our men were on TDY to see that they were paid on
the first of the month.”
Woodhouse continued to captivate the
audience with stories from his days in the military, which included
assignments in other countries. He then welcomed people to ask
When asked what motivated him to keep going when
things got tough, Woodhouse responded, “The main reason was I was
sent out to do the right thing. My mother told me, ‘boy, serve our
country.’ I didn’t want to let her down. I wasn’t raised like that.”
Woodhouse concluded his presentation with his vision for
“My vision of America is not utopia,” Woodhouse
said. “Let’s treat each other decently. Let’s treat each other
fairly, as we want to be treated. We shouldn’t let our differences
divide us. The future of America is indeterminate. It depends on all
of us. We’re making the vision for America. People can have
different political views, but we should not let those different
views divide us on our common voyage of making America a true
Woodhouse joined the Massachusetts Reserves after
his active duty service and retired as a lieutenant colonel. In
2022, he was appointed to the rank of brigadier general by
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. In 2007, Woodhouse, along with
other Tuskegee Airmen, received the Congressional Gold Medal from
President George W. Bush.
Following a standing ovation after
his presentation at Division Newport, Woodhouse was presented with a
photo taken with Hennings and Technical Director Ron Vien.
Division Newport’s leadership also thanked Don Gomes, Division
Newport’s Affirmative Employment Program and Special Emphasis
Program Manager and David Rhodes, lead of the special emphasis Black
program, for their work in organizing the event.
NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its
heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in
Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Capt. Chad Hennings, NUWC
Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and
Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca
Lake and Fisher's Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge
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