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First Name: Wendell

Last Name: Pruitt

Birthplace: St. Louis, MO, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: U.S. Army Air Forces (1941 - 1947)

Middle Name: Oliver

Date of Birth: 20 June 1920

Date of Death: 15 April 1945

Rank: Captain

Years Served:
Wendell Oliver Pruitt

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Wendell Oliver Pruitt
Captain, U.S. Army Air Forces

Wendell Oliver Pruitt was born on 20 June 1920 in St. Louis, MO, the youngest of ten children of Elijah and Melanie Pruitt. He attended Sumner High School and then furthered his education at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, MO, becoming a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

Pruitt, already a licensed pilot, enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces Cadet Flying Program in Tuskegee, AL, eventually graduating and being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on 11 December 1942.

After graduating from flight school at Tuskegee, Pruitt was assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group that was then stationed in Michigan. The 332nd was transferred to the Mediterranean Theater in late 1943, where Pruitt flew the P-47 Thunderbolt.

In June 1944, Pruitt and his occasional wingman, 1st Lt. Gwynne Walker Peirson, landed direct hits on an enemy destroyer that sank at Trieste Harbor in northern Italy. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for this action. Thereafter, the 332nd flew the P-51 Mustang as their primary fighter aircraft.

Pruitt teamed with Lee Archer to form the famed "Gruesome Twosome," the most successful pair of Tuskegee pilots in terms of air victories. The "Gruesome Twosome" is featured in a History Channel show entitled Dogfights: Tuskegee Airmen. Pruitt flew seventy combat missions, was credited with 3 enemy kills, and reached the rank of Captain.

Pruitt was killed, along with a student pilot, during a training exercise in Tuskegee on 15 April 1945.

Medals and Awards

Distinguished Flying Cross (8 Awards)


The Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project (along with William L. Igoe) in St. Louis, MO

A Martian rock studied by the Mars Spirit Rover

A St. Louis Elementary School and a Military School

"Wendell O. Pruitt Day" in the City of St. Louis, MO (24 December 1944)

Death and Burial

Captain Wendell Oliver Pruitt died on 15 April 1945 at Tuskegee, AL. He is buried at St. Peter's Cemetery in Normandy, MO.

Honoree ID: 2978   Created by: MHOH




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