HOMER L. SMITH, CAPT, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall
Jump to: navigation, search

Birthdate & Date of Loss

Date of birth: February 6, 1926
Date of death: May 21, 1967
Age: 41

Lucky Bag

1949 Smith, H LB.jpg

From the 1949 Lucky Bag:

Homer L. Smith

ALMA, WEST VIRGINIA

Homer would have been happier as a major league ball player, but he still took Navy Tech in stride with no trouble from the Academic Departments. The trials of Navy life left him disillusioned at times, but he always snapped back and went on with the job at hand. There was something of the gambler in his personality, and there were few "sure" things that he would pass up. He would argue about anything that was brought up with anyone who would argue, and defeat was unknown to him—his motto was "If you can't be logical, be loud." Sports held his attention when the current Esquire had been read from cover to cover, and one could always talk him into a game of handball or football. He always played to win, but, win or lose, he always finished smiling.

Loss

From Hall of Valor:

Homer Smith graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Class of 1949. It is believed he was captured by the Vietnamese after he was shot down over North Vietnam on May 20, 1967, and according to another Navy officer, was tortured to death while being held in captivity. Following his shoot-down, he was seen with hands raised, and in 1972 his helmet was put on display in Hanoi. On March 15, 1974, the Vietnamese returned the remains of Homer L. Smith to U.S. control with no explanation regarding his captivity or his death.

Navy Cross

From Bon Homee Richard cruise book

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Captain [then Commander] Homer Leroy Smith, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism on 19 and 20 May 1967, while serving as Commanding Officer of Attack Squadron TWO HUNDRED TWELVE (VA-212), embarked in U.S.S. BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA-31), during aerial attacks on two strategically important and heavily defended thermal power plants in Hanoi and Bac Giang, North Vietnam. As strike leader in each of these actions against the enemy, Captain Smith was faced with adverse weather and difficult terrain, formidable opposition from the enemy, and the necessity for violent, evasive maneuvering. Despite these obstacles, he expertly led his strike groups in executing brilliantly successful attacks which subsequently hindered the enemy in his efforts to make war. By his heroic actions, superb airmanship, and inspiring devotion to duty throughout, Captain Smith reflected great credit upon himself and his squadron, and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Authority: Navy Department Board of Decorations and Medals
Action Date: May 19 - 20, 1967
Service: Navy
Rank: Captain
Company: Attack Squadron 212 (VA-212)
Division: U.S.S. Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31)

Silver Star

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Silver Star (Posthumously) to Captain [then Commander] Homer Leroy Smith, United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action on 30 June 1966, while serving as Commanding Officer of Attack Squadron TWO HUNDRED TWELVE (VA-212), embarked in the U.S.S. HANCOCK (CVA-19), during aerial combat operations in Southeast Asia. As strike leader in an extremely hazardous and important strike against the Bac Giang petroleum storage area twenty miles northeast of Hanoi, North Vietnam, Captain Smith, through his outstanding airmanship and courageous determination, successfully led the strike group to the target area in adverse weather conditions across seventy-five miles of enemy territory. He then expertly positioned the fighter-cover and flak-suppression elements and led the attack element through heavy enemy anti-aircraft fire in a devastating bombing attack which destroyed more than 80% of the target. By his inspiring leadership and courage in the face of extremely heavy enemy defenses, Captain Smith ensured the success of this important mission and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Action Date: June 30, 1966
Service: Navy
Rank: Captain
Company: Attack Squadron 212 (VA-212)
Division: U.S.S. Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31)

Legion of Merit

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" (Posthumously) to Captain [then Commander] Homer Leroy Smith, United States Navy, for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as Commanding Officer of Attack Squadron TWO HUNDRED TWELVE (VA-212) from 2 August 1966 to 12 March 1967, during which time the squadron was embarked on board U.S.S. BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA-31) and participated in aerial combat operations in Southeast Asia. In the short span of less than six months, Captain Smith, through brilliant leadership, selfless dedication, and outstanding administration, was able to train his squadron in the use of a new weapon system, despite a large turnover of officers and enlisted personnel within the squadron, other training requirements, and the late assignment of aircraft requiring extensive modifications. These training efforts culminated in two flights from U.S.S. BON HOMME RICHARD on 11 and 12 March 1967 against the Sam Son Army Barracks, the Phu Dien Highway Bridge, and the Thanh Hoa Highway and Railroad Bridge, in North Vietnam. Captain Smith planned and led these combat flights with extraordinary skill and precision. Of the four weapons he delivered, the first was a direct hit on an administration building in the Sam Son Barracks area, the second was a direct hit on the Phu Dien Highway Bridge; the third was a direct hit on the Thanh Hoa Bridge, and the fourth was a probable hit on the Thanh Hoa Bridge. By his superb leadership and superior performance of duty in the face of major obstacles, Captain Smith made a significant contribution to the United States effort in Southeast Asia. His actions throughout his assignment as Commanding Officer of Attack Squadron TWO HUNDRED TWELVE were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. (Captain Smith is authorized the Combat "V".)

Action Date: August 2, 1966 - March 12, 1967
Service: Navy
Rank: Captain
Company: Attack Squadron 212 (VA-212)
Division: U.S.S. Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31)

Distinguished Flying Cross

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross (Posthumously) to Captain [then Commander] Homer Leroy Smith, United States Navy, for heroism while participating in aerial flight on 4 April 1966, as pilot of a light jet attack aircraft, serving with Attack Squadron TWO HUNDRED TWELVE (VA-212), embarked in U.S.S. HANCOCK (CVA-19), during aerial combat operations in Southeast Asia. As leader of a light jet attack division, Captain Smith participated in a strike against the Phuc Loi Petroleum Storage Area near Vinh, North Vietnam. In spite of extremely heavy enemy anti-aircraft defenses, he led his flight into a known surface-to-air missile envelope and to the assigned target. Captain Smith then led a precise, low-altitude bombing attack which scored direct hits on and inflicted substantial damage to the target. His superb judgment and airmanship were greatly responsible for the success of this important mission. Captain Smith's leadership and steadfast devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Action Date: April 4, 1966
Service: Navy
Rank: Captain
Company: Attack Squadron 212 (VA-212)
Division: U.S.S. Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31)

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Distinguished Flying Cross (Posthumously) to Captain [then Commander] Homer Leroy Smith, United States Navy, for heroism while participating in aerial flight on 12 June 1966, as Commanding Officer of Attack Squadron TWO HUNDRED TWELVE (VA-212), embarked in U.S.S. HANCOCK (CVA-19), during aerial combat operations in Southeast Asia. Assigned as strike leader in a twelve-p-lane strike against the Nam Dinh railroad yard, Captain Smith, disregarding two warnings of the imminent launching of surface-to-air missiles against the flight and in the face of extremely heavy anti-aircraft artillery fire, tenaciously led his flight to the pre-selected roll-in point. He then led the attack element in a devastating attack against the target in coordination with finely-timed flak-suppression runs. Through his superb planning and brilliant execution, seven buildings were destroyed and eleven buildings damaged. The courage, determination and leadership displayed by Captain Smith were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Action Date: June 12, 1966
Service: Navy
Rank: Captain
Company: Attack Squadron 212 (VA-212)
Division: U.S.S. Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31)

Distinguished Flying Cross

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting a Second Gold Star in lieu of a Third Award of the Distinguished Flying Cross (Posthumously) to Captain [then Commander] Homer Leroy Smith, United States Navy, for heroism while participating in aerial flight on 10 March 1966, as Commanding Officer of Attack Squadron TWO HUNDRED TWELVE (VA-212), embarked in U.S.S. HANCOCK (CVA-19), during combat operations against enemy forces in North Vietnam. As the leader of twenty-one aircraft in an attack against the heavily defended Hon Gai ammunition storage area, Captain Smith demonstrated outstanding ingenuity and superb aerial leadership in planning and leading the strike. Using his extensive combat experience and his knowledge of enemy defenses, he carefully planned the route to the target in order to lessen the chance of opposition and increase the probability of attaining surprise during the attack phase of the mission. The strike was made with such swiftness and surprise that even though the enemy defenses were alerted by another attack in the immediate area shortly before this attack, only light and sporadic anti-aircraft fire was encountered, and that occurred only after the first bombs had exploded in the target area. All bombs of the attacking group were in the target area. By his courageous determination and unstinting devotion to duty, Captain Smith upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Action Date: March 10, 1967
Service: Navy
Rank: Captain
Company: Attack Squadron 212 (VA-212)
Division: U.S.S. Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31)

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting a Third Gold Star in lieu of a Fourth Award of the Distinguished Flying Cross (Posthumously) to Captain [then Commander] Homer Leroy Smith, United States Navy, for heroism while participating in aerial flight on 24 April 1967, as Commanding Officer of Attack Squadron TWO HUNDRED TWELVE (VA-212), embarked in U.S.S. HANCOCK (CVA-19), during combat operations in Southeast Asia. As strike leader of a sixteen-plane strike group in an attack against the well-defended and extremely important Hon Gai Railroad Marshalling Yard in North Vietnam, Captain Smith skillfully led the strike group to a position behind the mountains north of Hon Gai. As the strike group crossed the mountains, it unexpectedly ran into heavy, accurate anti-aircraft fire from a fully alerted enemy. In the face of this intense opposition, Captain Smith tenaciously positioned the attack and flak-suppression elements at their pre-selected attack positions and led them in a devastating attack. He delivered his own bombs with great accuracy and destroyed numerous railroad boxcars, cutting the railroad tracks in several places. By his inspiring leadership, outstanding airmanship, and courage in the face of extremely heavy enemy defenses, Captain Smith made a most significant contribution to the success of this important mission. His actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Action Date: April 24, 1967
Service: Navy
Rank: Captain
Company: Attack Squadron 212 (VA-212)
Division: U.S.S. Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31)

POW Medal

From Hall of Valor:

Captain Homer Leroy Smith, United States Navy, was held as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from May 20, 1967 until his death in captivity on or about May 21, 1967.

Action Date: May 20, 1967 - May 21, 1967
Service: Navy
Rank: Captain
Division: Prisoner of War (North Vietnam)

Obituary

From Veteran Tributes:

Homer Smith was born on February 6, 1926, in Alma, West Virginia. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on November 9, 1943, and entered the U.S. Naval Academy on July 22, 1945. Smith graduated with a commission as an Ensign on June 3, 1949, and then served aboard the destroyer USS Frank E. Evans (DD-754) from July to December 1949, and then on the destroyer USS Hank (DD-702) from December 1949 to July 1950.

He then entered Flight School at NAS Pensacola, Florida, in August 1950, and was designated a Naval Aviator in August 1951. After additional training, Smith was assigned to VF-33, where he flew the F9F-6 Cougar from January 1952 to October 1954, when he transferred to NAS Akron, Ohio. In July 1956, LT Smith entered the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, California, followed by service as an instructor with the Navy ROTC unit at the University of Southern California from June 1958 to July 1959. He then joined VA-125 in July 1959, followed by VA-155, flying the A4D Skyhawk, from January 1960 to December 1961, when he joined the staff of Carrier Air Group 15 (CVG-15).

LCDR Smith next attended Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island, from August 1962 to July 1963, followed by service as an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy from July 1963 to January 1965. He then joined VA-125 at NAS Lemoore, California, in February 1965, before taking command of VA-212 later that year. CDR Smith began flying combat missions in Southeast Asia off the aircraft carrier USS Hancock (CVA-19) in December 1965, and finished his first tour in July 1966.

He returned for his second tour in February 1967 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31), and was forced to eject over North Vietnam while flying his 200th combat mission, and was captured on May 20, 1967. Capt Smith was tortured to death by his North Vietnamese captors on May 21, 1967, and his remains were returned to the United States on March 13, 1974. He was buried at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland.


Class Navigation

Class of 1949
Homer is one of 40 members of the Class of 1949 in Memorial Hall.
<< Clarence Stoddard, Jr. '49