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History comes alive in person of James Shipley

June 25, 2017 at 5:25 a.m. | Updated June 21, 2017 at 3:04 p.m.
James Shipley met many folks at the Moniteau County Historical Society Thursday, June 15, 2017 during a book signing. The book about his military experiences, titled "Together As One: Legend of James Shipley World War II Tuskegee Airman," was written by military writer Jeremy Amick.

History came to life and walked through the streets of California Thursday, June 15.

Living history also stopped at the Moniteau County Historical Society that day.

History was well represented by a real live man by the name of James Shipley.

"He never talked about it much," said the veteran's wife, Mildred. He always acted like he was just another soldier, she remembered. But, come to find out years later, "He's one of the originals."

Shipley is a mild-mannered man, a Tipton native, with a contagious smile, and a grand sense of humor, who served in the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. He'll turn 94-year-old on June 29. His wife, Mildred, was with him at the book-signing Thursday. He has three children a daughter and two sons, as well as five grandchildren and at least six great-grandchildren.

Many folks around town came out to meet this icon of a man and get a copy of Jeremy Amick's book about his experiences and a personal autograph from Shipley himself.

Paul Jungmeyer, president of the Moniteau County Historical Society, helped organize the book-signing for Shipley at the society's offices at 201 N. High St. The society can be reached at 573-796-3563.

"My dad was in the Army Air Corps," said visitor Debbie Sparks, just one of the folks who came out to meet Shipley and get an autographed copy of author Amick's book about the local native son and Tuskegee airman. Both Sparks and her son, Alan, came out to meet a man of Shipley's caliber, especially since they are both avid history buffs.

"I loved hearing many of his stories," the son said.

Mom was amazed how good and talented the Tuskegee Airmen came to be.

"We had to do it better," Shipley said. At the beginning of the war, Shipley explained, other pilots were disrespectful of them. By the end of the war, they were asking for us. "We had to prove ourselves."

The Tuskegee Airmen, as the vets were called, were a group of African American soldiers who fought in WWII and made an outstanding reputation for themselves for their courage and bravery and success in battle, according to author Jeremy Amick. They also had another nickname the Red Tails because the tail fins on their combat airplanes were painted red so both our pilots, as well as the enemy's pilots, could identify who they were.

And well-known and respected these red tails soon became.

In addition to the current book-signings, Shipley now spends much of his time fishing, his wife gardening. They both do a lot of volunteer work with their church.

"We do a lot of things," Mildred Shipley said. "We don't just sit around."

One of the most meaningful and emotional recent trips they took was Shipley's trip to the WWII Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., on an Honor Flight.

"There wasn't a dry eye there when we left that place," Shipley said.

"(The passing of many WW II vets) got me thinking about the rapidity in which we are losing them and my thoughts soon turned to Mr. Shipley," Amick said. "I quickly realized the impact of his service with the Tuskegee Airman and I called him in February 2016 to ask him if he would let me write a book about his service. He agreed."

The reason Jim's story is so important, Amick added, is that the Tuskegee story has been told, except it has been done from the perspective of the officer and pilot. Jim was an enlisted member of the ground crews and his experience within the Tuskegee structure was slightly different than that experience by the officers or pilots.

Jeremy P. Amick is the Public Affairs Officer at Silver Star Families of America. He has written hundreds of newspaper articles about veterans. For those interested in ordering his book on James Shipley, native son and Tuskegee airman, titled "Together As One: Legend of James Shipley World War II Tuskegee Airman." Amick can be reached at or on his cellphone at 573-230-7456.

An historic surprise

It was a tearful and sad, an uplifting and heartfelt moment.

Janice Anderson and James Shipley hugged for several minutes, not seemingly wanting to let each other go.

They met for the first time at a book-signing at the Moniteau County Historical Society Thursday in honor of Shipley and the Tuskegee Airmen and a new book written by military author Jeremy Amick.

Shipley was a member of the famous Tuskegee Airmen, a group of Army Air pilots and mechanics who became renown for their expertise and skill.

Anderson is a member of the Moniteau County Historical Society whose father was a pilot during WWII.

"I will believe you saved my father's life," Anderson said. Her dad was an officer and a bomber pilot in WWII, Eugene Zumwalt. "You probably protected him in Italy."

She drew a tentative breath.

"You're the reason I am here today," she said, with a catch in her voice. "You're the reason."


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