A Tipton, MO man received his high school diploma 77 years after joining the Tuskegee Airmen.

In a report from KOMU-TV, 96-year-old James Shipley received his high school diploma. The reason he was so late in receiving the diploma has something to do with World War II.

According to the story from KOMU:

Shipley completed the eleventh grade in Tipton, but did not have the means to travel to Sedalia to finish his education at the only school in the area open to African-Americans.

Instead, he began working as a mechanic until a recruiter convinced him to join the U.S. Army Air Forces.

In 1942, Shipley would enlist as a member of the 332nd Fighter Group and become one of the original Tuskegee Airmen at only 19 years old.

His service soon took him to Italy where he was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant and named a crew chief of the 301st Fighter Squadron.

His work on aircraft bombers allowed the first crew of African-American military aviators to dismantle 112 enemy planes in air and damage or destroy another 298 on the ground.

According to Shipley's grandson, Aaron McPherson, he never realized that his grandfather never received his high school diploma:

"He made it this far in life being 96 years old, a black man and not having a diploma but being able to work and take care of his family; that's pretty neat...He's a happy-go-lucky guy, he's really humble, so this is a big day," McPherson said.

Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe and retired Major General Hank Stratman presented Shipley with the diploma as part of Missouri's Operation Recognition program.

The state has presented diplomas to over 1,600 qualifying veterans since 2001.

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