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Ernest W. "Ernie" Lutz

1921 -

2015 Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame Ernie LutzErnest W. Ernie Lutz was born on September 26th, 1921 in Alma, MI, and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces shortly after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. Despite lacking any flight experience, Mr. Lutz passed the Air Force s required testing, and was accepted into pilot training at Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama in 1942.

Ernie Lutz married Dorothy Zdyb on April 24, 1943 and moved on to advanced flight training in Albany, Georgia, where he qualified on multiengine aircraft. On November 3rd of that year, Mr. Lutz earned his wings and was promoted to second lieutenant. He then traveled to Barksdale Field in Louisiana and met with his five new crew members and their B-26 Marauder medium bomber. Of the six men who met that day, only three would survive the war.

Assigned as a co-pilot to the 397th Bombardment Group, 599th Bomb Squadron, Ernie and his crew flew to Rivenhall Air Field near Essex, England and immediately commenced bombing operations against the Germans in France. Thirty of Mr. Lutz s sixty-five bombing missions over Europe were completed from Rivenhall. On May 29th, 1944, while bombing a railroad bridge near Paris, his aircraft came under heavy fire and pilot Everett Willemsen was wounded by shrapnel. Mr. Lutz immediately took control of the aircraft and kept the damaged B-26 in formation while directing his crew in administering first aid. His quick actions were credited with preserving the lives of his crew and the lives of the men in the aircraft around them. While Lieutenant Lutz was cited to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions, his citation was somehow overlooked. Through the petitioning of family members and Everett Willemsen, the pilot who was wounded that day, Mr. Lutz was finally awarded his medal on November 12th, 2004, over sixty years after the event.

Mr. Lutz went on to fly sixty-five total missions over Europe, including bombing support of the D-Day landings on June 6th, 1944, and survived many close calls at the hands of enemy anti-aircraft gunners and fighter pilots. He completed his overseas service in December of 1944, and returned to the United States. Sadly, three days after his departure from Europe, every aircraft in the 599th was lost during the Battle of the Bulge. After World War II, he joined the Air Force Reserve in Lansing and served another twenty-five years, eventually retiring at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1970. His awards and citations include thirteen Air Medals, four Battle Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross for Valor, and the France Service Medal, which was awarded by the French government for his participation in D-Day operations.

In addition to his accomplishments as a military aviator, Ernie Lutz has been active in civilian aviation for most of his adult life. As a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), Chapter 55, Mr. Lutz has personally introduced 1500+ young people to flying by providing over 400 free flights to interested youth as part of the EAA s Young Eagles program.

Because of his distinguished service to our country and his dedication to promoting and encouraging the advancement of flight, Mr. Lutz embodies the qualities and virtues extolled by the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame.

Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program