Click on image to enlarge.
24 year-old Captain Luther H. Smith of Des Moines,Iowa was on his second tour of duty. As a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, officially known as the 332nd Fighter Group, he was assigned to bomber escort duty. His job was to protect American bombers from German fighters. Luther flew 133 combat missions in World War II. On Friday the 13th of October 1944, he had an air accident and his airplane was severely damaged. He attempted to bail out of his burning plane, but it went into a tailspin and his right foot got caught inside the cockpit. He managed to free himself,then he passed out. Parachuting while unconscious, he came to rest in a tree and was captured by German soldiers. After major surgery in German hospitals, he was held as a prisoner of war for 7 months. The plane incident left him with permanent damage to his foot and leg.
In May 1995, he was selected by President William Clinton as one of seven veterans to accompany him to Europe for the 50th Anniversary of World War II. Captain Smith's P-51B displayed number 93 showing two enemy aircraft kills. Captain Smith also destroyed several enemy aircraft on the ground. He was awarded the Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross, eight European and Mediterranean Theaters Campaign Ribbons, the Prisoner of War Medal and the Purple Heart.
After earning his B.S. degree at the University of Iowa, Captain Smith, became a prominent Aerospace Engineer with General Electric, working for GE's Missile and Space Operations in Philadelphia, until his retirement in 1988. He holds two U.S. patents, has published numerous technical documents and publications, and has worked on special assignments with the U.S. Air Force, NASA, and U.S. Navy Submarine Command.
ETA:Prior to World War Two, the U.S. Army Air Corps did not employ Negroes (the respectful term in that era) in any role, a policy which found its justification in a racist and inaccurate report written in the 1920's. However in 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Air Corps to build an all-Negro flying unit. The presidential order caused the Army to create the 99th Pursuit Squadron. To develop the Negro pilots needed for the new squadron, the Air Corps opened a new training base in central Alabama, at the Tuskegee Institute...Then came the Tuskegee Airmen.
Captain Smith was part of that squadron of all black pilots. Captain Smith is my Uncle Luther. And the fellow in the second small photo with Uncle Luther is his brother, my Uncle Howard. This was a fun layout to create and I am really glad I took the time to put it together. It will make a nice gift for my uncle and a nice addition to our Family album.