WMU News

Aviation scholarship honors World War II hero

July 9, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- An endowed scholarship honoring a World War II hero with strong Michigan ties has been created to support aviation students at Western Michigan University.

Dr. Lloyd J. Schmaltz, WMU professor emeritus of geology, along with his wife, Marilyn, and other family members created the scholarship to honor Lloyd's brother, Henry, who died in 1958 while a member of the U.S. Air Force.

"Throughout his life, Henry was devoted to aviation, education and service," said Schmaltz of Kalamazoo, Mich. "He would be proud to know that future aviation professionals were helped to complete their studies in his name."

WMU offers one of the most sophisticated aviation programs in the world and is the only U.S. school to be certified for pilot training by the United Kingdom's Civil Aviation Authority. Beginning this fall, the Major Henry Schmaltz, USAF, Endowed Scholarship for Aviation Sciences will be available to full-time juniors and seniors studying aviation flight science or aircraft maintenance engineering technology.

Students may use the scholarship for tuition, fees and book expenses. Income from the $10,000 endowment will provide one scholarship to be awarded each year, with preference given to students who have served or intend to serve in the military. Additional contributions to the endowment fund may be made through the WMU Foundation.

Henry Schmaltz enlisted in the Army in 1941 and later transferred to what was then the Army Air Corps. In 1943, at the height of World War II, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and assigned as a pilot to a B-17 bomber group. He flew 31 missions out of the Mediterranean theater before being shot down in 1944 on a raid over the Ploesti oil fields and was held prisoner in German-occupied Romania for more than six months.

Schmaltz remained in the Air Force after the war and rose to the rank of major. He earned a Purple Heart for injuries he sustained during the Ploesti raid. He also was awarded the Air Medal, with four subsequent oakleaf clusters, for his bravery and exceptional performance.

Although he grew up in Chicago, Schmaltz had strong ties to Michigan. As a young man, he enlisted in the Civilian Conservation Corps and was stationed at Higgins Lake in north central Michigan, helping to plant thousands of trees in the area.

After World War II, Schmaltz was assigned to an air rescue group at Selfridge Air Force Base near Mt. Clemens, Mich., and flew helicopters, a PBY flying boat and a B-17 on rescue missions in the Great Lakes area.

Later transferred to Wiesbaden, Germany, he was named mission commander for the American Rescue Operation in the Netherlands. The operation was initiated after a great North Sea storm and high tides in February 1953 breached dikes and flooded a large portion of the country. Schmaltz and his men flew numerous rescue missions, saving 444 flood victims and providing food and clothing to those affected by the disaster.

The Dutch government later honored Schmaltz for his work and leadership when Consul General Baron A. De Vos knighted him with the Queen's Order of Orange Nassau.

Several members of Henry Schmaltz's family also have a Michigan connection. His widow, Carolyn, is a native of Livonia; son Michael, a retired Navy commander, is a pilot for Northwest Airlines and lives in the Traverse City area; and son Terry, who lives in Colorado, received a bachelor of science degree from WMU in 1973. He also is survived by a daughter, Jane, who is a flight attendant with Delta Airlines and lives in San Diego.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 616 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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