Spokane’s Red Tail

Spit Fire, Jack D. Holsclaw

Born and raised in Spokane, Jack D. Holsclaw spent World War II flying as a Tuskegee airman.

Though the US military was still racially segregated during the Second World War The 332nd Fighter Group of the Army Air Corps gained fame as an all-Black unit of pilots. Known as the Tuskegee Airmen due to training in the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama the group held one of the highest success rates defending American bombers throughout the war.

Jack D. Holsclaw was born in Spokane in 1918. Holsclaw graduated from North Central Highschool in 1935 and attended Whitworth College before transferring to Washington State College. In his senior year, he transferred again, this time to Western States College in Portland. Holsclaw graduated from college in 1942 with a degree to practice chiropractic.

Rather than go on to be a chiropractor in October 1942 Holsclaw enlisted in the U.S. Army. As he had received a civilian pilot license while studying in Oregon, Holclaw applied for the pilot’s program and went to the Tuskegee Institute where he was trained to fly combat aircraft. Holsclaw completed his training in July 1943 and in December was sent to Italy as part of the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group.

In Europe Holsclaw flew 68 missions protecting bombers from German fighter planes. On July 18, 1944, the 100th Fighter Squadron with Holsclaw as its flight leader engaged 300 German fighters to protect a group of B-17 bombers. While leading the 16 man squadron during the battle, he shot down two enemy aircraft. For his actions that day Holsclaw was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After the war, Holsclaw continued to serve in the military having a long career training new pilots before retiring in 1965 with the final rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Today his childhood home in Spokane honors his service with a historic marker placed by the Jonas Babcock Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution reminding pedestrians passing by of Black pilot from Inland Northwest.

The House is a private residence, please respect the residents’ privacy by remaining on the sidewalk as you examine this historic home and marker.