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Tigers: Tracking a Legend
Aleda E. Lutz
1st Lt. Aleda E. Lutz was born on November 9, 1915 in Freeland, Michigan. She was the youngest of 10 children and grew up on a farm that became part of the MBS International Airport, formerly known as the Tri-City Airport. She attended Wellman Country School through the eighth grade and Freeland School through the 10th grade. In 1933 she graduated from Saginaw Arthur Hill High School, making her the only one of her siblings to graduate from high school. In 1937 Lutz graduated from Saginaw General Hospital School of Nursing and worked there as a registered nurse until 1942.
In February 1942, Lutz enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant. She was assigned to Selfridge Field near Mt. Clemens, Michigan as a general duty nurse. Only two percent of 59,000 nurses in World War II were qualified flight nurses. In December 1942, she was transferred to the 349th Air Evacuation Camp at Bowman Field in Kentucky, where she was part of a newly established unit conducting specialized flight nurse training. Lutz was re-assigned to the 802nd Medical Air Evacuation Transport Squadron two months later. It was the first unit of its kind activated in the Army Air Corps. That same February, she was deployed to North Africa as part of the first dedicated air evacuated unit sent overseas. Lutz began flying combat missions in March 1943 and was promoted to 1st lieutenant, effective December 17, 1943. Between 1943 and 1944, she conducted all-weather medical evacuations in Tunisia, Italy and France. She participated in six separate battle campaigns over a 20-month period.
On November 1, 1944, Lutz was fatally injured in a Medevac C-47 crash near St. Chaumon, France. The Medevac was transporting 15 wounded soldiers from France to Italy. At the time of her death, she was perhaps the most experienced flight nurse in the U.S. Military Service. She had the most evacuation sorties (196), most combat hours flown by any flight nurse (814) and the most patients transported by any flight nurse (3500+). However, her greatest achievement may have simply been in serving others. She was completely selfless and courageous, especially in the face of the ultimate threat-death in combat. As a flight nurse, Lutz flew in unmarked transport planes, which were used to carry supplies to front lines and for patients backing out, making them legal targets for enemy fire. She once made four sorties in one day into the Anzio beachhead.
Lutz received a Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, European-African Theatre Ribbon with six Battle Stars (Rome-Arno, Tunisia, Sicily, Naples-Foggia, S. France, N. Apennines) and a Purple Heart. She was one of the most highly decorated women in the United States Military. Lutz has been honored with an 800-patient hospital ship, the USAHS Aleda E. Lutz, dedicated by General George C. Marshall, and a C-47 cargo plane christened Miss Nightingale III in her honor. Saginaw Veterans Hospital was rededicated as the Aleda E. Lutz Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in 1990, authorized by President George H. W. Bush. In 1993, Lutz was inducted into the Saginaw (Michigan) Hall of Fame and in 1994, she was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in Lansing, Michigan.