Clarence E. Huntley and Joseph Shambrey, two men of the historic all-Black Tuskegee Airmen military, passed away on January 5, at the same age of 91-years-old. Post World War II, the two were very much attached at the hip and “were friends all the way to the end,” as remembered by Huntley’s nephew, Craig Huntly (yes, that’s purposely spelled differently.)
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Collectively, the Tuskegee men are deservedly celebrated, yet the lives of these aviators and pilots are of little knowledge to the public.
Both Huntley and Shambrey were Los Angeles natives that were born six weeks apart of each other back in approximately 1924. They grew up together running track and enlisted in the army in 1942, for the AirCorp’s burgeoning Tuskegee lineup. As Tuskegees, some of their historic achievements included combating more than 15,000 missions and earning over 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses (or medallions). Huntley, a mechanic prior to the Army, specifically co-lead the aircrafts of P-39, P-47, and P-51, and as the crew chief, was Captain’s Andrew D. Turner’s right-hand man.
After WWII ended, the two came back to L.A. and each got married, but would work together again as National Guard combat engineers for the Korean War. Shambrey was then a supervisor for the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, and Huntley remained a skycap (also called a porter, one that shifts gears) for 60 years at L.A. and Burbank airports.
According to their surviving family members, the two remained close throughout the decades, “rarely [letting] a month pass without getting together or talking by phone.”
Their iconic contributions to world history is cemented as Tuskegee men, who broke racial barriers and inspired generations after them to join the army force and personnel, but Shambrey’s and Huntley’s loyalty to each other as true friends was also just as heartwarming. Rest in peace.
To learn about the first all-Black army, be sure to watch the films The Tuskegee Airmen from HBO and George Lucas’ Red Tails.
RIP to this two historical legends.
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