Wendell O. Pruitt
|Wendell O. Pruitt|
June 20, 1920|
St. Louis, Missouri
|Died||April 15, 1945
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1942 - 1945|
|Unit||332nd Fighter Group|
|Awards||Distinguished Flying Cross|
Wendell Oliver Pruitt (June 20, 1920 – April 15, 1945) was a pioneering African-American military pilot and Tuskegee Airman originally from St. Louis, Missouri. He was killed during a training exercise in 1945. After his death, his name, along with William L. Igoe's was given to the notorious Pruitt–Igoe public housing complex in St. Louis.
Pruitt grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, as the youngest of ten children to Elijah and Melanie Pruitt and attended Sumner High School. He then furthered his education at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, becoming a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
Pruitt, already a licensed pilot, enlisted in the Army Air Corps Cadet Flying Program in Tuskegee, Alabama, eventually graduating and being commissioned as a second lieutenant on December 11, 1942.
After graduating from flight school at Tuskegee, Pruitt was assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group, then stationed in Michigan. The 332nd was transferred to the Mediterranean theater in late 1943 where Pruitt flew the P-47 Thunderbolt.
In June 1944, Pruitt and his occasional wingman, 1st Lt. Gwynne Walker Peirson, landed direct hits on an enemy destroyer that sank at Trieste harbor in northern Italy. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for this action. Thereafter, the 332nd flew the P-51 Mustang as their primary fighter aircraft.
Pruitt teamed with Lee Archer to form the famed "Gruesome Twosome", the most successful pair of Tuskegee pilots in terms of air victories. The "Gruesome Twosome" are featured in a History Channel show entitled Dogfights: Tuskegee Airmen. Pruitt flew seventy combat missions, was credited with 3 enemy kills, and reached the rank of captain.
Pruitt was killed, along with a student pilot, during a training exercise in Tuskegee, Alabama on April 15, 1945.
U.S. decorations and badges
|Distinguished Flying Cross (with 7 Oak Leaf Clusters)|
Things named for Pruitt
- The Pruitt–Igoe Housing Project (along with William L. Igoe)
- A Martian rock studied by the Mars Spirit Rover
- A St. Louis elementary school and a military school
- "Wendell O. Pruitt Day" in the City of St. Louis, Missouri (December 24, 1944)
- Tuskegee Airmen Listing
- Mound City on the Mississippi, a St. Louis History. Accessed July 28, 2008.
- AMVETS post 41 Accessed July 28, 2008.
- Short Biography on youngsaintlouis.com. Accessed July 28, 2008.
- Distinguished African Americans in Aviation and Space Science By Betty Kaplan Gubert, Miriam Sawyer and Caroline M. Fannin (Greenwood, 2001) at pages 242-44. link
- Distinguished Flying Cross Society Honor Roll Accessed July 28, 2008.
- NASA Mars Exploration Rover Update. "Spirit is currently wrapping up a campaign of scientific studies of the rock target known as Wendell Pruitt"... Accessed July 28, 2008.
- Living St. Louis: Wendell Pruitt Accessed July 28, 2008