Paul Wurtsmith was born on August 9, 1906, in Detroit, Michigan. He graduated from the University of Detroit with a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering, and then enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Corps on August 4, 1927. Wurtsmith was commissioned a 2d Lt in the Army Air Corps and awarded his pilot wings at Kelly Field, Texas, on June 23, 1928, and then served as a pursuit pilot with the 94th Pursuit Squadron at Selfridge Field, Michigan. Lt Wurtsmith won the Mitchell Trophy Air Race in 1930, and served in various instructor and command positions before serving as Commander of the 17th Pursuit Squadron at Selfridge Field from September 1939 to July 1940. His next assignment was as Commander of the 41st Pursuit Squadron at Selfridge from July 1940 to December 1941, followed by service as Commander of the 49th Fighter Group in Australia and New Guinea from December 1941 to November 1942. Gen Wurtsmith served as Commander of V Fighter Command at New Guinea and in the Philippines from November 1942 to January 1945, and then as Commander of 13th Air Force in the Philippines from February 1945 to July 1946. After returning to the United States, Gen Wurtsmith was assigned to Headquarters Strategic Air Command at Bolling FIeld, Washington, D.C., and was named Commander of 8th Air Force in early September 1946. Before he could take command he was killed in a flying accident on September 13, 1946. In 1953, Oscoda AFB, Michigan, was renamed Wurtsmith AFB in his honor. Paul Wurtsmith was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.