Clarence Huntley Jr. and Joseph Shambrey were old friends, children of Los Angeles who made history when they joined the Tuskegee Airmen. Like many who enlisted in the military during World War II, they signed up out of a fervent desire to serve their country. As black men, they did so even as they faced discrimination and segregation back home.
Both were stationed in Italy in 1944 after enlisting in the United States’ trailblazing group of black pilots and service personnel in 1942. The two also came home together, ready to build their lives and start families. Over the decades, Shambrey hosted barbecues every year and invited members of the decorated squadron who lived in Los Angeles. As they got older, Huntley called Shambrey once a month to check on him.
“The black community in L.A. was small at that time. The city was segregated; everyone in the black community knew everybody,” Huntley’s nephew, Craig Huntly told The Times.”He and Joe were friends well before the service.”
They fostered that bond their entire lives, which for both ended Jan. 5. They were 91.
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