Lt.Col. George Hardy, 91, was one of the first pilots to serve in the U.S. Air Force’s segregated all-black squadron. And this summer he was honored at an ex-fighter airshow at the North Weald Airfield in Essex, England — and reunited with the first plane he flew during World War II, “Tall In The Saddle.”
Hardy, who now lives in Sarasota, Florida, flew 21 missions in the final months of the war in 1945, when he was 19 years old. His mission was to escort bombers over Nazi Germany to protect them from the Luftwaffe. After the war he went on to fly other aircraft, including 50 completed missions in Korea and 70 in Vietnam.
Hardy said of his old plane:
“This is one of the most beautiful airplanes going. It was so easy to fly and so responsive and, at 19-years-old, flying that airplane, you couldn’t beat it.
“I never had to use a parachute, so I never got in any real trouble.”
“Tall In The Saddle” is now based at the North Weald Airfield in Essex as part of a group of ex-fighter planes flown at air shows, known as the Hanger 11 Collection.
The plane has had bullet repairs in several places on its fuselage, as he was shot at from the ground.