At Lockbourne Air Field in Ohio, he became an operations and training officer, flying Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star and Northrop F-89 Scorpion jet fighters. While the F-80s saw extensive combat in the Korean War, Captain McGee flew all 100 of his Korean War combat missions in P-51’s. He was promoted to major.
As a lieutenant colonel in the Vietnam War, he flew 172 combat missions in McDonnell RF-4 photo-reconnaissance aircraft, and commanded the 16th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron based at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, near Saigon.
After other postings in the United States, Italy and Germany, he was promoted to full colonel and retired on Jan. 31, 1973, ending his career with 6,308 flying hours and 409 combat missions, among the most in service history. That three-war total was exceeded only by Col. Harold Snow, who flew 666 missions in those wars, and Col. Ralph Parr Jr., who flew 641, according to Air Force records. Colonel Snow died in 2016 at 93, and Colonel Parr died in 2012 at 88.
General McGee, who held many command posts through the years, received the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, the French Legion of Honor and the Bronze Star, among other decorations.
Charles Edward McGee was born in Cleveland on Dec. 7, 1919, 22 years to the day before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He was the second of three children of Lewis Sr. and Ruth (Lewis) McGee.
His mother died when Charles, her third child, was 17 months old, having developed an infection soon after giving birth to him. After her death, Charles and his siblings moved often with their father, a teacher, social worker and minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The family lived in Ohio, Florida, West Virginia, Iowa and Illinois.
Charles was an Eagle Scout and a top student at DuSable High School in Chicago, graduating in 1938. Saving for college, he worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps., then entered the University of Illinois to study engineering.