MAJOR GENERAL PAUL BERNARD WURTSMITH
Died September 13,1946
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General Wurtsmith was born in Detroit, Mich., in 1906. There he attended a local college, earning a degree in engineering.
In August 1927, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps as a flying cadet. After earning his wings and commission in 1928, General Wurtsmith joined the 94th Pursuit Squadron, the famed World War I "Hat in the Ring" Squadron, at nearby Selfridge Field.
Over the next 13 years, he served in numerous instructor and command positions before taking command of the 49th Pursuit Group in Australia in December 1941. Between March 1942 and January 1943, General Wurtsmith's fighters downed 78 enemy aircraft.
In 1943 General Wurtsmith took command of the 5th Fighter Group. General George Kenney, commander of the Pacific Air Forces, assigned two officers to General Wurtsmith's personal staff to keep them out of combat. The two officers were Lt. Col. Thomas J. Lynch and Capt. Richard I. Bong, at the time America's top two aces. Although trying to keep a rein on the two, General Wurtsmith secretly took pride in their continued aerial victories while on his staff. Captain Bong went on to become America's Ace of Aces with 40 confirmed victories.
General Wurtsmith returned to Selfridge Field and on Sept. 13, 1946, he was killed in a B-25 crash enroute to MacDill Field, Fla. In February 1953, the Air Force named Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, Mich., in honor of the state's native son.