Robert Deiz was born on June 17, 1919, in Portland, Oregon.
Prior to World War II, in the late 1930s, Diez enrolled in the Civilian Pilot Training Program at Swan Island in Portland, Oregon, receiving his pilot’s license.
After graduation from the University of Oregon, Deiz joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. On September 6, 1942, Deiz graduated from the Tuskegee Flight School’s Single Engine Class SE-42-H, earning his wings and a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant. The Army Air Force assigned Deiz to the 99th Fighter Squadron.
During World War II, Deiz flew 93 missions. On January 27, 1944, Deiz shot down a German Focke-Wulf Fw 190, earning his first kill as a combat fighter pilot. The next day, Deiz earned his 2nd kill after shooting down another German Focke-Wulf Fw 190. After returning to the United States, Deiz became a B-25 aircraft instructor at Tuskegee.
Deiz served as a model for the popular 1943 “Keep Us Flying” World War II War Bonds poster created by Betsy Graves Reyneau, a white artist known for her portraits of prominent African-Americans that circulated as part of the Harmon Foundation’s traveling exhibition in the 1940s.
After the war, Deiz served as a test pilot, becoming one of the first pilots to fly a jet aircraft. He also attended the Army Command and General Staff School in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
In 1961, after 20 years in the military, Deiz retired from the U.S. Air Force in Columbus, Ohio with the rank of Major.