Service Dog Being Trained for Disabled Veteran Named in Memory of Tuskegee Airman

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Provided by Semper K9 Assistance Dogs

Nationally recognized veteran service organization Semper K9 Assistance Dogs has named a service dog puppy in memory of Tuskegee Airman Colonel James T. Wiley. Wiley is being trained to assist a disabled veteran as a service dog. Semper K9 supports wounded service members who have mental health challenges with PTSD, TBI, MST, and other mental health diagnoses, as well as mobility challenges due to their disabilities.

One of the United States military’s first African American combat fighter pilots, Wiley was the first African American military combat pilot ever to land on foreign soil during combat readiness in North Africa.

James Wiley’s Early Years

James T. Wiley was born on Aug. 7, 1918, in Evansville, Indiana. He was raised in western Pennsylvania and attended high school in the Pittsburgh Public School system. He attended the University of Pittsburgh on scholarship, majoring in physics and graduating in 1940. Though most of his white physics classmates obtained immediate employment from large corporations, he could only secure a job as a chauffeur.

The Civil Pilot Training Program

In 1941, he saw local advertising for no-cost Civil Pilot Training Program flying lessons at the local airfield. After quitting his chauffeur job, he became the only non-white individual admitted among five white students. Weeks later, he graduated from Civil Pilot Training, obtaining his commercial and instructor pilot ratings. After graduation, he and his fellow pilot graduates went to a local restaurant to celebrate. When the restaurant refused to serve him based on his race, all six men immediately departed the restaurant in a show of solidarity.

Though his white civil pilot cohorts could secure immediate job offers as pilots, he did not immediately receive an offer until he applied for an opening for a flight instructor at Tuskegee Institute’s Civil Pilot Training Program. In fall 1941, he joined Tuskegee Institute’s Civil Pilot Training Program as a faculty member.

Military Service

In 1942, he joined the Corps’ Advanced Flight Training at the Tuskegee Army Airfield. On July 3, 1942, Wiley graduated from the program’s four-ever Cadet Class Single Engine Section SE-42-F, earning his wings and a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant. Wiley’s parents attended the graduation ceremonies. He was assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group’s 99th Fighter Squadron.

In April 1943, Wiley and his squadron were sent to Casablanca in North Africa. Wiley became the 99th Squadron’s flight leader. On May 5, 1943, Wiley and Graham Smith were the 99th Fighter Squadron’s first two P-40 pilots to land in North Africa at Oued N’ja in French Morocco. In late 1943, Wiley and his squadron moved from North Africa to Sicily.

As a flight leader, Wiley led squadron planes on ground attacks upon a German troop train with 500 enemy soldiers. Wiley destroyed the train’s engine and boiler, causing the German soldiers to scurry off the train. Wiley flew 101 combat missions during World War II. In spring 1944 after his hands had developed a constant tremor, Wiley boarded a ship en route to the United States. When he returned to Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Courier and Pittsburgh Mayor Cornelius D. Scully declared June 26, 1944 as “Wiley Day.” The city paraded Wiley down its Main Street.

After the war he remained in the U.S. Air Force until his retirement as a Colonel in 1965.

Retirement and Family Life

After leaving the USAF, Wiley became a USAF plant representative and customer engineer at Boeing in Seattle, where he worked on the Lunar Orbiter. When Wiley moved his family into a modest residential neighborhood, his white neighbors began to sell their homes during a wave of white flight.

He was married to Ruby Ethylynn Morris Wiley (1919–2008) for 55 years. They had two children, daughter Mary and son Jim. He passed away in 2000 at his home in Seattle at the age of 81.

Semper K9’s Wiley is named in his memory with the blessing of his granddaughter, Kimberly Wiley. “[Seeing] this gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes,” said Kimberly. “Thank you for taking so much time and care honoring him.”

Semper K9’s Wiley

Semper K9’s Wiley is currently being trained to be a service dog for a disabled American veteran. He is sponsored by TREA (The Enlisted Association) and was donated to Semper K9’s program by Graystone Retrievers.

You can find out more about Wiley, purchase a gift for him from the wish list or donate to support his training at semperk9.org/dogs/wiley/.

To nominate a service member to Semper K9’s Veteran Recognition Committee, which assists with the naming of future Semper K9 service dogs, visit semperk9.org/name-a-service-dog/. To learn more about Semper K9, visit SemperK9.org.

About Semper K9 Assistance Dogs

Semper K9 Assistance Dogs is a combat veteran founded and operated 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides service dogs for wounded members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. Christopher Baity, Semper K9’s Executive Director, is an OEF/OIF combat veteran Marine Corps military working dog handler, trainer and kennel master with three combat deployments, one civilian deployment to Afghanistan and two additional overseas deployments with military working dogs. Learn learn more about Semper K9 at SemperK9.org and follow them on social media: @SemperK9.

 

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