Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients: Austin McKenzie - Jamaican/Cuban; Major Victor Terrelonge - Jamaican

Caribbean Actors Star in Red Tails movie – Caribbean Americans Served as Tuskegee Airmen

Conrad De Sandies: d. 2011

Conrad De Sandies emigrated at age 21 from Trinidad and Tobago, joining his parents and other family members already in Harlem. Within a year he was drafted into the Army Air Forces and sent to Tuskegee. The War Department had set up an experimental program there “to see if blacks could fly,” said Ron Brewington, former national public relations officer of Tuskegee Airmen Inc., an organization that preserves the airmen’s history. Conrad De Sandies enjoyed the accolades that came his way as an original Tuskegee Airman.

The Teaneck resident was at the U.S. Capitol in March 2007 when President George W. Bush bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal collectively on the legendary World War II-era group that fought the enemy overseas and racism at home.  In October 2008, he attended the grand opening of the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at the Alabama airfield where the nation’s first African-American military pilots trained. Three months later, he was back in Washington as a guest at President Obama’s inauguration, and a year after that he was at Madison Square Garden, receiving honors from the Knicks.

“He enjoyed every second of it,” said daughter S. Patois De Sandies. “When they came home from the Army, they got nothing.”

Mr. De Sandies, who rose to sergeant, was an aircraft mechanic. He spent part of the war in Italy.

Mr. De Sandies returned to New York after his December 1945 discharge from the military. He studied business at City College of New York and went into the hardware business. He owned Sandy’s Hardware at Eighth Avenue and 132nd Street in Harlem.  Mr. De Sandies and his wife, Elsie, a New York City schoolteacher, moved their family to Teaneck in 1960.

S. Patois De Sandies said she and her siblings were unaware of their father’s Tuskegee Airman credentials until 1995, when HBO aired a movie, “The Tuskegee Airmen,” starring Laurence Fishburne.

“They never told anyone until the Fishburne movie came out,” she said, referring to her father and his fellow Tuskegee Airmen. “We were shocked.”

She added: “The reason they never talked about it was they didn’t want anyone to take it away from them.”

(From Jay Levin – The Record) continues to research the Caribbean American contribution to American and World History, so that the information can be shared with our children.  This may help you in your conversation with your kids when they ask about their culture and how it relates to American history.