Shelby Westbrook Papers


Dates: 1945-1992, undated
Size: 1.5 linear feet
Repository: Chicago Public Library, Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature, 9525 S. Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois 60628



Provenance: Donated by Shelby Westbrook in August 2008
Access: No restrictions

When quoting material from this collection the preferred citation is:

Shelby Westbrook Papers, [Box #, Folder #], Chicago Public Library, Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature

Processed by: Elizabeth Loch, Archival Specialist, April 2021

Biographical Note

First Lieutenant Shelby F. Westbrook was a Tuskegee Airman active during World War II. Westbrook was born in Marked Tree, Arkansas on January 15, 1922. He attended Libbey High School, an integrated high school, and graduated in 1939.

Westbrook enrolled in aviation cadet training at Tuskegee Army Air Field in March 1943, completing his pilot training in February 1944. He was assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group. This was one of the first Black units formed by the Army Air Corps. His unit was sent to Italy in July 1944. As a combat pilot, Westbrook flew about 60 missions in over 12 countries in Europe. He was promoted to First Lieutenant and served in the 332nd Fighter Group from July 1944 to May 1945.

For his European service, Westbrook was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with five Clusters, the Presidential Unit Citation, the 15th Air Force Certificate of Valor, and five Battle Stars, as well as an air-to-air victory over a German Bf 109 fighter on October 4, 1944. In 2007, First Lieutenant Westbrook accepted a Congressional Gold Medal. On November 8, 2013, Westbrook was presented the French Legion of Honor, along with five other Chicago-area World War II veterans, for their "extraordinary bravery” in liberating France during World War II.

After his service, Westbrook was employed as an electrical engineer at W. R. Grace and Company. He also authored Tuskegee Airmen 1941-1945. He married Lulu Bell in 1952 and resided on the South Side of Chicago. Westbrook died on August 17, 2016.

Scope and Content

This collection consists of materials related to Westbrook’s time as a Tuskegee Airman. It includes VHS tapes (featuring interviews with Tuskegee Airman veterans), articles, and a photograph. Of special note is the U.S. War Department’s 1944 press releases on African American soldiers.


This small collection is arranged alphabetically.

Related Materials

Related materials at the Chicago Public Library include:

Related materials at other institutions include:

Container List

Box 1 Folder 1 Photograph [photocopy] of Pilot Shelby Westbrook in a plane with Crew Chief Chas. Hensley, undated
Box 1 Folder 2 “The All-Black Air Force” by Senior Master Sergeant Harold Newcomb, Airman, 1977 January
Box 1 Folder 3 “The Tuskegee Airmen” by Eddie C. Riley, Sergeants, 1992 December
Box 1 Folder 4 U.S. War Department press releases in regard to “Negro soldiers in 1944,” 1945 July 11
Box 1 Folder 5 VHS tape, “The Tuskegee Airmen: Pioneers in the Air” program featuring interviews with members of the DODO Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen; First Lieutenant Theodore Moran, Staff Sergeant LaVern Shelton, Captain Shelby Westbrook, Sergeant Hilton Joesph, Captain George Taylor, and Major Felix Kirkpatrick, undated
Box 1 Folder 6 VHS tape of The Veterans Advocate program, host Allen Lyle interviews members of the Tuskegee Airmen Association, Pilot John H. Lyle, Navigator Roy M. Chappell, Pilot Shelby F. Westbrook, and Pilot William Thompson, undated
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