Haitian Heritage Month Heroes: Alix Pasquet (1919 – 1958)
In 1942, Haitian President Élie Lescot implemented an Aviation Corps program and chose three men out of 42 corps members to receive pilot training at the famed Tuskegee Flight School in Tuskegee, Alabama. Alix Pasquet, a law graduate of École Millitaire d'Haiti and an officer in the Haitian army at the time, was one of these three chosen officers.
The U.S. government recruited the trio to organize a patrol of the Caribbean Sea during World War II and gave the Haitian government six airplanes. These airplanes could carry bombs that could be used to attack German submarines within the area. In February 1943, Pasquet, along with Raymond Cassagnol and Philippe Célestin, traveled from Port-au-Prince to Alabama to begin their training.
The Afro-American Newspaper, one of the most widely circulated black newspapers at that time, ran a feature story on Pasquet, Cassagnol, and Célestin in April 1943, which noted the trio’s aptitude with the English language. Pasquet and his compatriots also had to adapt to the pervasive racial segregation and racism in the American South at that time, such as being forced to ride in Blacks-only transportation or sit in the back of trains. As a result, they rarely ventured off-campus. Despite a bad case of the flu that forced him to lose a month of his training, Pasquet graduated from flight school in August 1943 as a member of class 43G. The Tuskegee Airmen were renowned for their unmatched record of more than 200 combat missions with few losses.
After the end of World War II, Pasquet returned to Haiti. He would later be exiled to Miami in 1957 for supporting Haitian presidential candidate Louis Déjoie in the May 1957 Haitian Civil War. While in exile in Miami, Pasquet led a political movement to restore stability in his native country and overthrow current ruler François Duvalier.
In 1958, he returned to Haiti with seven soldiers – two Haitians and five Americans - with the intention of overpowering the capital's army barracks and capturing its ammunition depot. He gained entry through the barracks' gate by convincing the sentry that he was an officer delivering prisoners and then quickly seized control of the barracks. However, the plot was foiled when an escaped prisoner revealed crucial details about Pasquet's position to the incumbent government. Pasquet was killed during the attempted coup in 1958 and buried in Port-au-Prince.