Army Aviation Hall of Fame 1998 Induction
Donald F. Luce, LTC, USA, dedicated himself professionally and personally in and out of uniform for over 50 years to developing, improving and sustaining an Army Aviation Program that could fully support the U.S. Army in peace and war.
Don learned to fly at 16. In 1942, at age 17 and too young for military service, he joined the Civil Air Patrol as a pilot/observer and flew submarine watch over the Gulf of Mexico. In 1944 he was commissioned 2d Lieutenant based on his CAP experience and participated in combat operations in New Guinea, the Philippines and Okinawa. Later he served in Japan, Korea and China. He left the active Army in 1946 but was recalled to active duty in 1948 during the Berlin Crisis. From 1950 to 1954 he served in U.S. Army Europe and was responsible for establishing the Heidelberg Army Airfield. He was then assigned to what later became U.S. Army Aviation and Troop Command.
During 1959-61 Don worked on and obtained approval for the Army to assume from the U.S. Air Force the capability to research, develop, and procure its own aircraft. In 1961, he was also a prime mover in securing approval for the Army to have its own depot maintenance facility, the Corpus Christi Army Depot. These actions finally and effectively divorced Army Aviation from the U.S. Air Force. He then became the first Director of Maintenance at Corpus Christi Army Depot where he was responsible for depot maintenance support of all army aircraft during the critical years of the war in Vietnam and the related huge expansion of Army Aviation. During these years, Don initiated many support programs including, among others, spectrometric oil analysis, in house overhaul of aircraft and components and retrograde of battle damaged aircraft.
Don retired from the Army in 1969 with a reputation as a mover and shaker - a man who got things done. In his retirement years he continued to support Army Aviation with the same zeal and enthusiasm displayed while in uniform. He moved to St. Louis where for many years he represented AVCO Lycoming, prime producer of the T53 and T55 turbine engines. Over the years he established three AAAA chapters and served as president of each; as a member of the AAAA National Executive Board for six terms; co-founded the annual AAAA Product Support Symposium now in its 24th year and served a lengthy stint as Treasurer and until his death as a Governor of the AAAA Scholarship Foundation.