Balloon & Sky Fest Celebrates the Life of Lt. Col. Hiram Mann
It is with reminiscent joy but acute sadness that the New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest reports the passing of Tuskegee Airman "Red Tail" pilot Lt. Col. Hiram Mann. Lt. Col. Mann died while under hospice care in his adopted hometown of Titusville on May 17, just days shy of his 93rd birthday.
He was a veteran of 48 combat missions, flying the legendary "Red Tail" P-51D Mustang as he and the 332nd Fighter Group protected the American bombers, rising above the Jim Crow laws and racial prejudice to attain elite fighter pilot status. He remained in military service to our nation until his retirement in 1972, and he inspired thousands of Americans in the years that followed.
Balloon & Sky Fest honors and recognizes all veterans during the annual event, with special displays, honor ceremonies, warbird fly-bys, and other activities. Lt. Col. Mann attended our event twice.
His first time here was in 2012, when he was our special guest and honoree. We asked the U.S. Army Golden Knights to present Lt. Col. Mann with a specially engraved, personalized, mahogany baton as they landed in front of the afternoon air show crowd. Everyone was quite moved as he somehow mustered the strength to arise from his wheelchair, moved slowly along the line of smartly positioned Golden Knights, and saluted and thanked each one. (See photos)
Lt. Col. Mann also attended Balloon & Sky Fest in 2013, spending time with our visitors in the VIP Flightline Tent, and interacting with and inspiring hundreds of attendees at the traveling Tuskegee Airmen Red Tail Squadron exhibit.
He will be missed.
Lt. Col. Hiram Mann: "Gone West"
Thank you, Sir.
Event photos courtesy of Don Bok.
Family photos courtesy of the Mann family.
The 2015 Balloon & Sky Fest is set for April 17-19 at the New Smyrna Beach Airport.