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Remembering Wurtsmith Air Force Base

Base Dedication

Cover of the Dedication of Wurtsmith Air Force Base Program

Paul B. Wurtsmith

Throughout his short but brilliant career, Paul B. Wurtsmith was primarily two things - a man devoted to flying and a leader devoted to the men he led. From the early days of his lieutenancy in 1929, when he won the Mitchell Trophy Race at Cleveland, up through his rapid promotion to brigadier general in less than a year, his deeds and his thoughts hinged on these two dedications. After planning and participating in the daring maneuvers of the 49th Fighter Group, the Fifth Air Force Fighter Command, and the 13th (Jungle) Air Force all the way from Darwin to the conquered island of Japan, his death on a routine flight to Tampa, Florida, in September, 1946, at the age of 40, was mourned by fighting men everywhere who remembered his "personal example, initiative and indefatigable effort".

Wurtsmith Air Force Base

The installation we know today as Wurtsmith Air Force Base is steeped in the traditions of military aviation. Almost 30 years ago, a pursuit group from Selfridge Field landed the first small army aircraft on the frozen surface of Van Etten Lake, inaugurating the era of Camp Skeel. In subsequent years, the names of Ennis Whitehead, George Tourtellot, Charles Lindberg, Carl Spaatz, and Paul Wurtsmith, among others have been linked with the development of the post. During World War II, French and American flyers were trained for combat along these shores; and with the advent of the jet age, Oscoda Air Force Base assumed importance as one of the links in the national fighter-interceptor network. Today it proudly assumes the name of a man no less part of that American military aviation.

Schedule of Events

  • 1100 - Open House
  • 1100 - Official Party and guests arrive at Officers' Club for luncheon.
  • 1230 - Guests prepare to leave for reviewing stand
  • 1300 - Dedication Ceremonies*
    1. Parade begins to form
    2. Introduction of Major Gen. Frederick H. Smith, Jr., Vice-Commander, Air Defense Command, by Lt. Col. George G. Dewey, Commander, Wurtsmith Air Force Base.
    3. Invocation by Very Reverend Celestin J. Steiner, S. J., President, University of Detroit.Troops will not uncover.
    4. Introduction of dignitaries by General Smith.
    5. Introduction of the Honorable Elford A. Cederberg, United States Congressman, 10th District, Michigan, who will deliver an address.
    6. Introduction of General Ennis C. Whitehead (Retired), who will give the dedicatory address.
    7. Benediction.Troops will not uncover.
    8. Taps
    9. Troops pass in review.
    10. Aircraft pass in review.
  • * - Immediately following ceremonies, officials and invited guests will proceed to Officers' Club for the following program:
    1. Reception
    2. Address by General George C. Kenney (Retired).
    3. Introduction of guests of honor: Mrs. Fred Wurtsmith, mother, and Master Paul B. Wurtsmith, nephew of General Wurtsmith.
    4. Unveiling of portrait of General Wurtsmith by Master Paul Wurtsmith.

The following article appeared in the Oscoda Press - Thursday July 9, 1953

WURTSMITH AIR FORCE BASE - "Oscoda should be tickled to death to have an air base named for such a man - he was 'real stuff'" General George C, Kenney said as he informally dedicated the portrait of the late Major General Paul B. Wurtsmith in the Officer's Club at the Base Saturday afternoon.

The ceremony, in which the General's namesake and nephew, Paul B. Wurtsmith pulled the velvet curtain unveiling the life-size portrait, was witnessed by Mrs. Fred B. Wurtsmith, the World War II hero's mother, and his widow, Mrs. Irene Ruegger.

General Kenney's words only added emphasis to those of General Ennis C. Whitehead who gave the dedication address from the reviewing stand on the apron of the great Iosco county jet fighter base earlier in the afternoon.



High Air Force Officials Take Part In Dedication Ceremony - in the reviewing stand at the dedication ceremonies of Wurtsmith Air Force Base at Oscoda Saturday afternoon were, left to right: Major General Richard Greussendorf, of the 10th Air Force; the Very Rev. Celestin J. Steiner, president of the University of Detroit; Mrs. Elford A Cederberg and daughter; Paul B. Wurtsmith; Mrs. Fred Wurtsmith; Col. George D. Dewey, commanding officer of the Base; Major General Frederick H. Smith, Jr., vice-commander, Air Defense Command; Congressman Elford A. Cederberg, 10th District of Bay City; General Thomas White, vice chief of Staff, USAF; General George C. Kenney (Retired); General Ennis C. Whitehead (Retired); Mrs. Irene Ruegger (widow of General Wurtsmith); and Major Gen. Morris Nelson, commander of the Eastern Air Defense Command (Oscoda Press photo - July 9, 1953)

General Whitehead, after summarizing the rapid climb of General Wurtsmith from a second lieutenant in the army air force in the early days of the Oscoda Base, said: "I think that it is very appropriate that we name this base for the fighter-commander who in my judgment did the finest job in World War II in fighter planes. As we stand here today, we are engaged in a war in which there appears no other way to terminate it except by total victory. A man like General Wurtsmith would understand that. He was the greatest fighter-commander that I ever knew."

The program at the reviewing stand opened when Lt. Col. George G. Dewey, commander of the Wurtsmith Air Force Base, introduced Major General Frederick H. Smith, Jr., vice-commander of the Air Defense Command. General Smith in turn introduced the Very Rev. Celestine J. Steiner, president of the University of Detroit, who gave the invocation and the benediction; The Hon. Elford A. Cederberg, 10th district Representative in Congress, of Bay City; and General Whitehead. Following the dedication ceremony the troops headed by the 10th Air Force band from Selfridge Field, passed in review, and jet planes from the field mad a pass over the marching troops



The life-size portrait of the late Major General Paul B. Wurtsmith, for whom the former Oscoda Air Force Base was officially dedicated Saturday, 4 July 1953, was unveiled in the Officer's Club Lounge following the dedication ceremony. General George C. Kenney (Retired) left, who was with General Wurtsmith in the South Pacific, made the unveiling address, as Mrs. Fred B. Wurtsmith, of Detroit, the general's mother, looked on and his nephew and name-sake, Paul B. Wurtsmith pulled the cord that unveiled the picture. (Oscoda Press photo - July 9, 1953)

"Open House" at the base attracted a crowd of several thousand visitors during the day.

Arrangements for the dedication ceremony were in charge of Major John H. Walker, of the Base administration staff.

Congressman Cederberg in one of his first appearances before a large 10th district crowd since his election last fall said in part: "It is appropriate that this day should have been chosen to honor General Wurtsmith. There is no greater tribute to him than to dedicate ourselves to the spirit of those men of 1776 who gave us Independence Day."