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Shelby Westbrook Papers

Identifier: harsh-2008-05

Scope and Contents

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.


  • 1945-1992, undated


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions

Conditions Governing Use

Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection

Biographical / Historical

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.


1.5 Linear Feet (in 1 box, includes 1 photograph and 2 videocassette tapes)

Language of Materials



A Tuskegee Airman during World War II and a historian of African Americans in the military services, Shelby Westbrook’s papers consist of press releases, photographs and audiovisual materials.


This small collection is arranged alphabetically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Shelby Westbrook in August 2008

Related Materials

Related materials at the Chicago Public Library include:

  • Eugene Winslow Papers

Related materials at other institutions include:
  • Alexander Jefferson Papers at the University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
  • Tuskegee Airmen Collection at the University of California, Riverside

Guide to the Shelby Westbrook Papers
Elizabeth Loch, Archival Specialist
April 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection Repository

Woodson Regional Library
Chicago Public Library
9525 S. Halsted Street
Chicago IL 60628 United States
(312) 745-2080