HomeNewsArticle Display

Iowa Tuskegee Airman Makes Final Flight

Capt. Luther Smith speaks to a crowd of 300 gathered for the dedication ceremony of the Iowa Tuskegee Airmen Memorial held at the 132nd Fighter Wing, Des Moines Iowa, November 9, 2002. Capt. Smith's plane number and name adorn the fiberglass P-51D replica that will be on static display at the main entrance of the 132nd Fighter Wing. The memorial is dedicated to all of Iowa's Tuskegee Airmen. The Iowa Tuskegee Airmen Memorial is a joint project between the Fort Des Moines Museum And Education Center and the Iowa Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Tim Day)(released)

Capt. Luther Smith speaks to a crowd of 300 gathered for the dedication ceremony of the Iowa Tuskegee Airmen Memorial held at the 132nd Fighter Wing, Des Moines Iowa, November 9, 2002. Capt. Smith's plane number and name adorn the fiberglass P-51D replica that will be on static display at the main entrance of the 132nd Fighter Wing. The memorial is dedicated to all of Iowa's Tuskegee Airmen. The Iowa Tuskegee Airmen Memorial is a joint project between the Fort Des Moines Museum And Education Center and the Iowa Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Tim Day)(released)

A replica P-51D unveiled during a dedication ceremony held at the 132nd Fighter Wing, Des Moines, Iowa, on November 9, 2002. The P-51D classically painted as a "Red Tail Angel", identified to all that the aircraft was being flown by the famed Tuskegee Airman of the 332nd Fighter Group. The P-51D will be on static display at the new main entrance of the 132nd Fighter Wing as the Iowa Tuskegee Airmen Memorial.  The Mustang bears the names and numbers of two of Iowa's most famous flyers, number 93, flown by Capt. Robert Williams (Williams wrote the original manuscript for the 1995 HBO film "The Tuskegee Airmen") and number 10, flown by Capt. Luther Smith (Smith survived being shot down and held captive by the Germans with life threatening wounds). (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Tim Day)(released)

A replica P-51D unveiled during a dedication ceremony held at the 132nd Fighter Wing, Des Moines, Iowa, on November 9, 2002. The P-51D classically painted as a "Red Tail Angel", identified to all that the aircraft was being flown by the famed Tuskegee Airman of the 332nd Fighter Group. The P-51D will be on static display at the new main entrance of the 132nd Fighter Wing as the Iowa Tuskegee Airmen Memorial. The Mustang bears the names and numbers of two of Iowa's most famous flyers, number 93, flown by Capt. Robert Williams (Williams wrote the original manuscript for the 1995 HBO film "The Tuskegee Airmen") and number 10, flown by Capt. Luther Smith (Smith survived being shot down and held captive by the Germans with life threatening wounds). (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Tim Day)(released)

A replica of Capt. Luther Smith's P-51 on static display at the main gate of the 132nd Fighter Wing, Des Moines, Iowa, honors Iowa's Tuskegee Airmen for their contributions during World War II.

A replica of Capt. Luther Smith's P-51 on static display at the main gate of the 132nd Fighter Wing, Des Moines, Iowa, honors Iowa's Tuskegee Airmen for their contributions during World War II.

Des Moines, Iowa -- Capt. Luther Smith, one of Iowa's Tuskegee Airman died Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 89 of kidney failure near his home in Villanova, Pa. Native of Des Moines, Roosevelt High School Graduate and University of Iowa Graduate, Smith was accepted into the Army Air Corps in 1941.

Capt. Smith was assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group operating in Europe and flew 133 combat missions, credited with12 enemy aircraft kills before being shot down over Zagreb, Croatia, in 1944. Capt. Smith parachuted from his damaged aircraft and severely injured his leg after landing in a tree. Capt. Smith was captured by the Germans and held seven months in a prisoner of war camp.

During a dedication ceremony of the P-51D replica bearing Capt. Smith's name and plane number held at the 132nd Fighter Wing, Des Moines, Iowa on November 9, 2002, Capt. Smith explained in detail his life growing up in Des Moines and his experiences as a Tuskegee Airman to the crowd of 300.

Capt. Smith related that his treatment by his captors was at times better than the other pilots that he was housed with because he was African-American; he felt his captors treated him as a celebrity, often receiving larger food rations, and playing cards with his captors. Due to the extensive damage to his leg and his captors' limited medical abilities, Capt. Smith lost over 70 pounds, almost losing his life during his captivity and ending his flying career. Capt. Smith's closing comment to the group amplified the feelings of the other Tuskegee Airmen present during the ceremony, "In 1941 nobody wanted the Tuskegee Airmen, and in 1945 only the Nazis didn't want us."