James Shipley, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, laid to rest

James Lloyd Shipley, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, was laid to rest Monday at the Veterans Cemetery in Higginsville, Missouri, with full military honors. 

According to his obituary, Shipley passed away on July 21 at the age of 99. 

Shipley was born on June 29, 1923, in Tipton, Missouri, and had a lifelong dream of becoming a mechanic. 

When he was 19 years old, he voluntarily joined the Black Army Air Corps. He completed his basic training at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama. He later enrolled in an aircraft mechanic school in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he learned how to rebuild and assemble various parts of an airplane.  He furthered his education in Detroit, Michigan.

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He was later deployed to Italy as a crew chief and became Staff Sergeant. After World War II, he became an auto-mechanic and retired 29 years later. 

He also worked as a farmer, sold fireworks and owned and operated a gas station along with his wife, Mildred.  He also volunteered at his church. 

In 2007, he received the Congressional Gold Medal from President George W. Bush which was given to the unit for their service. In 2013, he went on an honor flight for World War II veterans and toured war memorials in Washington, D.C. 

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Shipley is survived by his wife, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild

The Tuskegee Airmen is the nickname of the first African American unit to fly combat airplanes in World War II. It comprised hundreds of black pilots, mechanics, and other servicemen who fought in World War II. The group was awarded three Distinguished Unit Citations.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.