Americans in Wartime Experience
February 9, 2022

The M3 Lee Tank

The M3 Lee was built by Chrysler Corporation at the Detroit Tank Arsenal in June 1942 as US Serial Number W-3,058,035. Not much is known about her wartime service, other than she was turned over to the Commonwealth -- most likely Australia -- and was assigned the British serial number T-25984.

In 1988, Bob Fleming, a well-known "tank finder" for the Budge collection in the UK, locates a Lee in a field in the hilly part of Ararat, Victoria, Australia. The Lee is fairly complete but is missing the turret. To Bob’s surprise the Wright-Continental R975 EC2 radial turns over!!!! The Lee had been used as a bulldozer and had a large steel plate to cover the the hull roof where the turret had been removed.

Lee 2

Although the bulldozer's blade had been removed, the mounting brackets were still welded to the hull front. Overall, the running gear was in "well-used" condition. The Lee would make its way to the UK where it would be restored and partially completed. Allan Cors acquired the Lee when it became available in the early 90’s. Some items were still needed to complete the tank especially the turret cupola, which was replaced on commonwealth Lees in service. After much searching for the missing items we were able to locate them and finally complete the Lee.

Updates from the Restoration Shop

It might be cold and snowy here at the Tank Farm, but we are staying warm and working on the M 36 tank destroyer. Most of our work has been concentrated on the turret, road wheels, and GAA engine. We will try and finish the turret before we start getting into the hull restoration. We hope to have the turret finished by the spring at which time we will begin the process of removing the Russian engine.

The Voices of Freedom Project Podcast

The Voices of Freedom is thrilled to announce the launch of our new podcast, The Voices of Freedom Podcast. This bimonthly podcast will feature interviews of veterans along with updates on the museum’s progress, our ongoing tank restorations, and other interesting segments.

The first episode, our interview of Green Beret, and one of the founding members of Delta Force, Lewis “Bucky” Burruss is live now. It can be found wherever you get your podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss an episode!

General Charles McGee 1919 - 2022

On 16 January 1941, plans were announced by the War Department for the creation of a “Negro Pursuit Squadron.” The pilots would be trained in Tuskegee, Alabama. Two months later, on 19 March, the 99th Pursuit Squadron was created. Soon after, the 318th Base Headquarters and Air Base Squadron (colored) at Tuskegee was formed. Of the first class of African-American pilots, there were only five who completed the training at Tuskegee Army Air Field.

On 4 July 1942, the 332nd Fighter Group was formed and on 13 October, they were activated. The 332nd would be the first African-American group in the Army Air Forces. They would begin operations as part of the Twelfth Air Force using the P-39 Airacobra to escort and protect convoys, to protect harbors, and to conduct reconnaissance missions. The squadron would soon begin flying the P-47 Thunderbolt and then eventually the P-51 Mustang which would become invaluable to the Allied victory.

Consisting of approximately 1,000 African American pilots trained in Tuskegee, Alabama, the Tuskegee Airmen became legendary. The most famous came from the 332nd Fighter Group which is better known as the Red Tails because of the distinctive red tail of their P-51’s. The Red Tails flew more than 15,000 sorties and distinguished themselves in combat.

Born 19 December 1919 in Cleveland, Ohio, Charles McGee learned the value of hard work and service at an early age. He became a Boy Scout, rising to the top rank of Eagle Scout. He went to school and earned an engineering degree before becoming part of the famed Tuskegee Airmen. Second Lieutenant McGee graduated from flight school in Class 43-F in 1943 and was assigned to 332nd Fighter Group. After flying 136 combat missions, one of which resulted in him shooting down a German fighter that was attacking the bombers he was assigned to protect, McGee was promoted to the rank of Captain and sent back to Tuskegee to put his combat experiences to use as an instructor.

After WWII, he was assigned to the 67th Fighter Bomber Squadron during the Korean War. During this tour, he flew 100 low level bombing and strafing missions. During the Vietnam War, now LTC McGee led the 16th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron out of Tan Son Nhut Air Base near Saigon. He flew RF-4C Phantoms on 173 missions. His combat career would come to an end with the Vietnam War with McGee totaling 409 fighter combat missions over the course of three wars.

Charles’ military honors include the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with Two Clusters, two Presidential Unit Citations, and many others. He was elected into the Aviation Hall of Fame in 2011. On February 4th, 2020, Charles McGee was promoted to Brigadier General by President Donald Trump.

On 16 January 2022, Brigadier General Charles McGee passed away at his home in Bethesda, Maryland. In doing so, the United States lost an aviation legend and pioneer. General McGee's sacrifice and service in the defense of freedom for everyone is a compelling story. His distinguished life and decorated career is one that should be an example to all.

On 27 May 2015, the Voices of Freedom had the honor of interviewing General McGee in Fairfax, VA. His interview can be viewed here.
The Americans in Wartime Experience explores the impact of war and conflict on America since WWI. It honors those who served in the military and on the home front and highlights the values they demonstrated in serving – duty, honor, and courage. It examines how periods of conflict have profoundly shaped American society. It educates visitors about the costs of war, both on a personal and social level. It challenges visitors to remember the service and sacrifices made by their fellow citizens to preserve and defend our freedoms. LEARN MORE

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