Movie hits close to home for area World War II veteran

Published 9:44 am Saturday, February 25, 2012

With the release of the movie “The Tuskegee Airmen,” World War II veteran Lowell Carrington of Southampton County recounts his military experiences as a young African-American in the Army Air Forces shortly after the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, which prohibited discrimination because of “race and color” and forced the War Department for the first time to accept blacks in the newly formed Army Air Forces.

Carrington entered the Army Air Forces as a young 21-year-old resident of Emporia. Carrington spent eight months state side training as a mortar gunner and was shipped out on Feb. 8, 1942, first assigned to Company C 838th Aviation Engineers Combat Battalion, located at the eastern boundary of EAME Theater. The EAME Theater in which Carrington serviced was North Africa and Europe.

Company C 838th Aviation Engineers was an all-African-American unit with white company commanders. Military units in 1942 were all segregated. Shortly after Carrington’s arrival to Company C 838th Aviation Engineers, one white company commander, because of Carrington’s light complexion and hair texture, thought Carrington was white but was representing himself as African-American to avoid combat zones. Carrington was moved from his unit and was to be trained as a B-17 tail gunner, which at that time was only assigned to whites.

After Carrington participated in two aerial training exercises, it was suspected by his crew that Carrington was in fact African-American. Carrington was removed and reassigned back to Company C 838th Aviation Engineers, the all-African-American Unit.

The following week the B-17 crew Carrington was training with crashed and burned shortly after takeoff. In the next several years overseas, Carrington participated in the Rome-Arno conflict of World War II, one of the most violent armed conflicts in the history of mankind. Carrington was injured by mortar fire and was discharged from service in 1945, receiving the Bronze Star, which requires a recommendation by the commander and is awarded for heroic and meritorious service while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; the World War II Victory Medal; and the European/African/Middle Eastern Campaign Medal along with four Overseas Service Bars.

Lowell in 1943 married Gladys Brown, a native of Southampton County. Six children were born to this marriage, 12 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and one on the way.

Carrington, now 92 years of age, after having fought two wars at once, the Germany invasion and racism, wishes that all young Americans, black and white, take advantage of what the new military has to offer and never forget all the men and women who gave their lives for this great country we all live in.

And, by the way go, see the movie “The Tuskegee Airmen.”

KEITH CARRINGTON of Southampton County is a private investigator and the youngest son of World War II veteran Lowell Carrington. The author’s email address is