Major Robert Deiz
Learning to fly in the late 1930s through the Civilian Pilot’s Training program at Swan Island in Portland, Oregon, Deiz realized his dream at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. With an increased demand for pilots, the Army Air Corps began a so-called “experimental” aviation-training program at historically black Tuskegee Institute in the summer of 1940. This program resulted in a new corps of pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance personnel, and instructors. These individuals became collectively known as the Tuskegee Airmen. While at Tuskegee, Deiz posed for artist Betsy Graves Reyneau who painted the famous war bond poster titled “Keep Us Flying!”
After graduation, Deiz spent 13 months flying 93 missions overseas with the elite Tuskegee-trained 99th Fighter Squadron. One of a handful of Tuskegee Airmen from Oregon, Deiz, once said: “It irks us when people refer to us as an experiment. We are not conceited, but we feel we can fly as good as anybody else.” Deiz shot down two German Focke-Wulf 190s while flying ground support missions in late January 1944. Returning to the United States and the Tuskegee Institute, Major Deiz became a B-25 aircraft instructor.
Deiz remained in the Air Force after World War II. He spent time flying transport aircraft in Alaska and closing Air Force bases, such as Eniwetok, in the Pacific. Additionally, Deiz was instrumental in developing safer landing patterns used by aircraft during inclement weather. After retiring from the Air Force in 1961, he joined North American Aviation at Columbus, Ohio, where he worked in research and development. Major Deiz passed away on April 6, 1992.