Herman Lawson was from the Fresno area of California. He attended Marysville High School where he picked up the nickname “Ace” as the schools star football player.
After having a ride in a friend’s airplane, Lawson became interested in becoming a pilot. He took flying lessons and upon getting his license, he became one of the first African Americans in Northern California to earn a private pilot’s license.
He tried to join the U.S. Army Air Corps, but was initially turned down. Not taking no for an answer, he wrote letters to Congress and to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. That did the trick and he was accepted into the Army, reporting for training at Tuskegee.
He was in Class 42-I-SE at Tuskegee Army Airfield where he received his wings becoming a fighter pilot. He was then assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron.
While flying combat in P-40 Warhawks, P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs, Lawson earned the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He flew 133 missions in World War II’s European Theater including Greece, Bulgaria, Germany, Austria, France, Poland, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia. He survived two engine failures while flying P-40s, one of these resulting in him ditching in the Mediterranean. Lawson later had another P-40 that he named “Ace of Pearls” named in honor of Lawson’s wife Pearl.