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Wendell O Pruitt

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Years of service  1942 - 1945
Rank  Captain
Name  Wendell Pruitt

Wendell O. Pruitt image1findagravecomphotos250photos201030922
Born  June 20, 1920 St. Louis, Missouri (1920-06-20)
Died  April 15, 1945, Tuskegee, Alabama, United States
Awards  Distinguished Flying Cross
Education  Lincoln University, Sumner High School

Service/branch  United States Army
Allegiance  United States of America

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.


Wendell O. Pruitt Capt Wendell O Pruitt 1920 1945 Find A Grave Memorial


Wendell O. Pruitt Capt Wendell O Pruitt 1920 1945 Find A Grave Memorial

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.

Military career

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 three 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.

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 12, 1944)
  • References

    Wendell O. Pruitt Wikipedia

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