Charles E. McGee was one of the Tuskegee Airmen and a career officer in the United States Air Force for 30 years. He holds a US Air Force record of 409 fighter combat missions flown in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. As a youth, McGee was a member of the Boy Scouts of America and earned the Eagle Scout award on August 9, 1940. He later served in district and regional positions in the BSA. At the 2010 National Scout Jamboree, he was recognized with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award. In March 1942, McGee was a sophomore at the University of Illinois studying engineering. While at the University of Illinois he was a member of the National Society of Pershing Rifles. He also became a member of the Tau chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate black Greek letter organization. After enlisting in the US Army on October 26, 1942, he became a part of the Tuskegee Airmen having earned his pilot's wings, and graduating from Class 43-F on June 30, 1943. By February 1944, he was stationed in Italy with the 301st Fighter Squadron of the 332d Fighter Group, flying his first mission. McGee flew the Bell P-39Q Airacobra, Republic P-47D Thunderbolt and North American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft, escorting Consolidated B-24 Liberator and Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers over Germany, Austria and the Balkans. During missions, he also engaged in low level attacks over enemy airfields and rail yards. While escorting B-17s over Czechoslovakia, he engaged a formation of Luftwaffe fighters and downed a Focke Wulf Fw 190.
Promoted to Captain, McGee had flown a total of 137 combat missions, and had returned to the United States on December 1, 1944, to become an instructor on the North American B-25 Mitchell bombers that another unit of the Tuskegee Airmen were working up. He remained at Tuskegee Army Air Field until 1946, when the base was closed. In 1978, at the age of 58, he completed the college degree at Columbia College in Kansas City, over 30 years after his initial enrollment at the University of Illinois. Though interrupted by World War II, attaining a college degree had been a lifelong goal.