Smith, Jr., Luther H.
Date of Interview
Luther H. Smith, Jr., was born 27 September 1920 in Des Moines, Iowa, and raised there as well. He attended the University of Iowa from 1938-41, then enrolled in the Civilian Pilot Training Course, a program to train pilots. Luther enlisted in the US Army Air Corps in September 1942, and completed Air Corps training as a fighter pilot. He served with the 302nd Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group, and was one of the Tuskegee Airmen. In January 1944, Luther joined his overseas unit and began flying missions from bases in Italy. By October 1944, he had completed more than one hundred. According to a 2009 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Luther's records, "he was credited with destroying two enemy aircraft in aerial combat and ten aircraft in ground strafing missions. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross, and an Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters." On 13 October 1944, Luther's plane, a P-47 Mustang fighter aircraft, was shot down while on a mission escorting American bombers to Germany. He bailed out, but was badly injured. His German captors sent him first to Luftwaffe (German Air Force) hospitals, then to a hospital prison camp facility, Stalag XVIII-A at Spittal, in southern Austria. Luther remained here for the duration of the war, and was liberated by US forces in early May 1945. After his return to the United States, Luther had a long recovery from his injuries. He remained in the Air Corps (after 1947, Air Force), retiring in 1947. He then completed a degree in engineering at the University of Iowa in 1950, and had a career as an aerospace engineer for General Electric Co. In 1995, Captain Smith accompanied President Bill Clinton to Europe with six other veterans for the fiftieth anniversary marking the end of World War II. He also served on the Architect-Engineer Evaluation Jury to select the design for the National World War II Memorial in Washington.
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Saylor, Thomas, "Oral History Project World War II Years, 1941-1946 - Luther Smith, Jr." (2005). Oral History Project: World War II Years, 1941-1946. 75.