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Scout project would honor American hero

Flight Officer Carl J. Woods was last seen flying a Mustang P-51C fighter over the Adriatic Sea on Oct. 7, 1944, but he has not been forgotten.

Woods, a Mars native, was one of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of Black airmen who served during World War II. In the Friday edition of the Eagle, we learned of a proposal to honor Woods, one of fewer than 1,000 Black pilots during the war.

Jack Riggio with Boy Scout Troop 400 has proposed a permanent memorial to Woods as his Eagle Scout project.

“As I have learned about him, I have been very inspired by his story, and I want to share his story with the other residents of Mars and future generations,” Jack said.

Woods story is truly inspiring, and it is particularly appropriate that Jack announced his project during Black History Month.

Woods was born in 1923 and raised in Mars, the son of Jesse Woods and Beatrice Saunders. He was the only Black student in his class at Mars High School, where he was also the first Black football player for the school, which he attended from 1938 to 1941.

In 1943, Woods enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and went to Alabama for training. By December he’d started basic flight training, and in April 1944, he earned his wings and was assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group and deployed to Europe.

Woods saw combat in the skies over Europe before his final flight. On that day he was part of a fighter escort protecting bombers on their way to attack an oil refinery in Austria.

Other pilots lost sight of Woods around 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 7, 1944, near the Adriatic Sea. The U.S. Army officially declared him dead a year and a day later.

At Monday’s meeting, Mars Borough Council members were supportive of the plan, and Mayor Gregg Hartung said he was working with Jack on a location for the memorial. Two possibilities were discussed: Near the spaceship downtown or at the football field at Mars Area High School, where Woods once played.

Either location would be fitting. Jack deserves congratulations for helping to spread the name and story of an America hero like Woods.

— JK

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