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Wed, 11.06.1918

George Iles, Military Officer born

George Iles

*George Iles was born on this date in 1918. He was a Black U.S. Army Air Force officer.

George Jewell Iles was born in Quincy, Illinois, Adams County, to George D. Iles and Juanita Howell Iles. The elder George worked as a barber and later as an employee at Firestone's Electric Wheel Works. The family lived at 1416 N. 14th in Quincy, Illinois. He attended Lincoln Elementary, a segregated school. He played football at Quincy High School, graduating in 1935.

After enrolling at nearby Quincy College, Iles worked at the Civilian Conservation Corps for three years. Early in his military career, Iles was married to 1st wife, Cornelia Elizabeth Vinton Iles. When Iles left for the European Theater during World War II, Cornelia stayed with her mother at 2026 Spruce in Quincy, Illinois, later moving to Denver, Colorado, when Iles returned from the war. They had two children: A child who did not survive beyond infancy; and Bruce Adrion Iles, a U.S. Marine Corporal and a rifleman with the 1st Marine Division, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, A Company. 

In 1939 while still enrolled at Quincy College, Iles joined the newly formed Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP), earning his civilian pilot's license. He became Quincy's first African American licensed pilot. In 1942, after serving as an interviewer with the U.S. employment service, Iles enlisted in the United States Army and in June 1943, applied for Tuskegee's Flight cadet program. On May 23, 1944, Iles graduated from the Tuskegee cadet pilot training school in its Class 44-E-SE, receiving his wings and commission as a 2nd Lieutenant. The U.S. Army Air Corp assigned Iles to the all-African American 99th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group, Tuskegee Airmen or "Red Tails.

He flew 23 missions in World War II's European Theater. On the afternoon of February 25, 1945, the German military captured Iles in Augsburg, Germany, after German anti-aircraft artillery shot down Iles' North American P-51 Mustang. Iles made every effort to stay in the air, maintaining contact with his squadron leader, who urged Iles to fly to neutral Switzerland, where Iles or any other Allied military personnel would receive safe harbor until the end of World War II. After losing radio contact with Iles, his squadron leader and senior brass had no idea whether Iles made it to a safe harbor, got shot down, or was killed. Nonetheless, the U.S. Army Air Corps sent an official notice to Iles's then-wife, Cornelia, indicating that Iles was missing in action and had been awarded, in absentia, the Air Medal with one leaf cluster.

The German military initially imprisoned Iles at Stalag Luft 3, then at Nuremberg-Langwasser, and finally at the multinational prisoner of war camp, Stalag VII-A, the largest POW camp in Nazi Germany. While imprisoned by the Nazis, Iles would reconnect with fellow 99th Fighter Squadron pilot/Cadet 44-E-SE classmate Harold Brown who had been shot down weeks earlier. On April 29, 1945, General George Patton and his Third Army liberated Iles, Brown, and 76,000+ other POWs as Patton's tanks drove into Stalag VII-A, capturing it. 

After World War II, Iles returned to the United States, serving as a trainer at Tuskegee Air Force Field. He re-enlisted on July 13, 1946. In 1948, Iles graduated from Boston University, earning a bachelor's degree in Business Administration. He also earned a master's degree. During the Korean War and the Vietnam War, Iles served in intelligence in Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. He retired on October 31, 1973, as a Colonel.

He served in the U.S. Air Force for 30 years, with tours in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Iles married 2nd wife, Jola (Vola) Marie Neesen Iles, a Dutch woman from Venlo, Holland. They had one son, Danny. They settled in Marysville, California. George Iles died on December 9, 2004, in California. His wife, Jola, died a year later and is buried by his side. 

Iles created the Iles Academy of Golf for Kids in Maryville, California, a leadership and sports non-profit. George J. Iles Elementary School in Quincy, Illinois, which opened in August 2018, was named in his honor. In 2020 as part of the Moorman Foundation and Arts Quincy's "Celebration of Education" series, Cedar Falls, Iowa Sculptor Tim Jorgensen installed his "Red Tails" sculptor at Iles' namesake, the George J. Iles Elementary School in Quincy, Illinois.

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