'I just wanted to fly': Former Tuskegee airman, Carson civilian reflects
February 16, 2012
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- A thin layer of dust rests on the medals, certificates and picture frames that tell the story of Franklin Macon's life. On the curio in the corner of his living room sits a portrait of Macon at 19, flight helmet and goggles on his head. A red and blue model airplane sits next to the portrait.
"I've been told I should (feel proud)," Macon said in a gravelly voice. "But I was a teenager. All I cared about was flying."
Macon enlisted in the Army Air Corps Dec. 28, 1943, and although he never deployed in World War II, he is considered one of the original Tuskegee Airmen.
"I always said that Hitler heard about that crazy kid from Colorado and finished the job before I could get there," he said, smirking.
Macon's sense of humor and looks defy his 88 years.
"I don't smoke, drink or chew or run around with girls that do. Except sometimes. The girls," he said.
Raised by a great aunt in Colorado Springs, Macon said he always had an interest in flying.
As a student at Colorado Springs High School, he joined the Civil Air Patrol, earning his student pilot's license. When his instructors told him about civilian pilot training at Tuskegee, Macon jumped at the opportunity.
"I wasn't old enough to get my commercial pilot's license so I put my age up," he said. "Before classes started (my aunt) called up and said she hadn't heard from me. She told them how old I was and, of course, they sent me home."
Macon returned to the Springs until he was old enough to join the Army Air Corps, where he qualified to be a pilot, navigator and bombardier.
"I told them I wanted to be a pilot," he said.
The Army sent Macon back to Tuskegee where he trained on VT-13 Avengers and North American AT-6 aircraft.
"A few days before graduation, I went out flying with some guys doing acrobatics, aerial warfare. We used to play around. I just wanted to do some more flying," he said. "I had a bad cold and I ruptured my (eardrums) and they sent me … to the hospital and I was there for almost a year and the war was over."
After the war, Macon joined the Reserve and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. During the Korean War, he worked in civil service at Fort Carson.
"I wanted to go to Peterson (Field) because of the airplanes, but they hired me at Fort Carson in the automotive section down there. Of course, I didn't like it and I put in a transfer to go to Peterson Field. One of the officers said, 'We have airplanes here, you don't need to go there.'"
For 22 years, Macon worked at the Mountain Post, maintaining aircraft and training new pilots.
"The (military police) would have to close the roads down so we could move the airplanes. The planes were stationed at Peterson Field, but the maintenance was done at Carson," he said. "I went through all the military flight schools. The Army, they sent me everywhere."
Macon said he left Fort Carson in the late 1970s.
In his retirement, Macon still enjoyed flying, taking a keen interest in gliders.
"I like gliders because it takes a lot more skill to fly gliders than it does to fly powered aircraft," he said. "I like being up there by myself."
Problems with arthritis have prevented Macon from continuing to fly, but he still keeps in touch with his comrades in the area.
At the Jan. 19 premiere of "Red Tails," which tells the story of a unit of African-American fighter pilots in North Africa and Italy during World War II, Macon joined four other airmen to meet with members of the Colorado Springs community.
"They got the flying right," said Macon. "People who see Red Tails ask me, 'Which one was you?' I tell them I was the best pilot in there that was always getting into trouble."