Tuskegee Airman, ‘Top Gun’ WWII veteran celebrates 98th birthday

Original Tuskegee Airman -- Lt. Colonel Harry Thaddeus Stewart Jr. (Fourth on the right) (Tuskegee Airmen Detroit Inc.)

The Tuskegee Airmen Detroit Chapter wished “Top Gun” World War II veteran Lt. Colonel Harry T. Stewart, Jr a happy 98th birthday on Monday.

Stewart was born in Newport News, Virginia, on July 4, 1924.

According to the Detroit chapter, the retired U.S. Army Air Force Officer flew with the 332nd fighter group, also known as the Tuskegee Airmen. Stewart was a combat fighter pilot and distinguished flying cross recipient. The chapter acknowledges that Stewart shot down three German aircraft in one day during his time-fighting in World War II.

In 1949, Stewart was one of the first “Top Gun” inaugural competition winners. According to the Detroit chapter, George Hardy and James H. Harvey were on his team.

Related: Detroit man who was Tuskegee Airman dies at 100

Stewart fought with the U.S. Air Force and is also a writer. He released a book about his war experiences with Phillip Handleman. “Soaring to Glory: A Tuskegee Airman’s Firsthand Account of World War II” tells a first-person perspective on the Tuskegee Airmen’s struggles while in war.

The Tuskegee Airmen were awarded the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal in 2006.