Interview: Charles Anderson recalls Black Army Air Corps at Tuskegee (1992)

Charles "Chief" Edward Anderson PhD '60 recalls the Black Army Air Corps group based at Tuskegee and his service as squadron weather officer. He was the first African American to hold a PhD in meteorology, which he earned from MIT. Anderson started the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) at the Tuskegee Institute of Alabama, responsible for training the pilots who became the famous Tuskegee Airmen. A self-taught pilot, he was the first African American to receive a pilot's license, 1929, and widely acclaimed as the father of Black Aviation. 

Scope and Contents

Oral history interview by Earl Droessler with Charles E. Anderson, 1992.
Forms part of American Meteorological Society Oral History Project.

Charles E. Anderson begins by recalling his entry into the Army Air Corps at the University of Chicago, and his work there under Byers, Wolf, Rossby, Reed and Starr. He then covers the Black Army Air Corps group based at Tuskegee and his service as squadron weather officer. He comments on studying high polymer chemistry at Brooklyn Poly, and his assignment to Watson Labs in the Atmospheric Analysis group, overseeing the work of German scientists including [Randolph] Pendorff, Heinz Lettau and [E.W.] Wahl. He then discusses his work with the [AFCRC] Geophysics Research Directorate [aka GRD]. He mentions work with Kappa, Kellogg, and Landsberg at GRD, and notes C. Yunge's work on composition of aerosols as well as Japanese scientists‚ work on vacuum ultraviolet spectroscopy. Anderson reflects on his publication of Cumulus Dynamics "Proceedings of the ... Conference on Cumulus Convection," and his work with Betty Iliff on gravity wave type pulsations using pressure transducers. He comments on Lowly's work with balloons for gathering stratospheric data and describes cloud seeding experiments. He talks about his service as cloud physics project officer in Project [Operation] Greenhouse, the forerunner of H-bomb experiments. He notes his work with Pendar on suppressing jet contrails, his PhD work at MIT, and move to head the atmospheric analysis group at Douglas Aircraft, where he worked on interplanetary exploration and moist cloud models. He mentions his work at ESSA under Bob White, setting up the first World Weather Watch program. He then describes his work as a professor at the University of Wisconsin with Vern Suomi, and studies of tornadic thunderstorms, detailing the use of satellite and computer technology. He discusses his tenure at North Carolina State, working on the move from orlarian to Lagrangian schemes and improving on statistical interpretation of data. He ends by reflecting on his family background, the scarcity of Black PhDs in meteorology, and his thoughts of the future.

Other Formats



Timeline: 1990s
School: School of Science
Department: Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
Career: EngineeringGovernment & LawMilitaryScienceTechnologyTransportation
Object: Video
Collection: Integration and Differentiation 1969-1994, Order of Operations 1921-1945, Tuskegee