From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

James Smee '70

Date of birth: April 1, 1948

Date of death: May 16, 1984

Age: 36

Lucky Bag

From the 1970 Lucky Bag:


From the Class of 1970 40th Reunion Book:

Jim visited the Naval Academy as an eight-year-old and had his picture taken in front of Tecumseh. Despite being the son of an Army colonel, he announced that he wanted to be the captain of a Naval ship. Interestingly enough, at service selection night, he went Marine Air.

Jim began flight training in April 1971 in Pensacola, after completing The Basic School at Quantico. He received his wings in Kingsville, Texas in October 1972. His first assignment was F-4 squadron VMFA 235 in Kaneohe, Hawaii. He was selected for the Olmsted Scholar Program, class of 1975, and spent two years at the Institut d’Etude Politiques in Grenoble, France. Upon his return, he was deployed for a year to Iwakuni, Japan. After attending Amphibious Warfare School in 1978-9, he spent three years in Beaufort with VMFA 122 and 312, deploying to Iwakuni as the Operations Officer of VMFA 312. In January 1983, he attended the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk. In August 1983, he was assigned to MAWTS-1 in Yuma, Arizona. At the time of his death in May 1984, he was serving as the Operations Officer of MAWTS-1.

Jim married Susan Garnett in September, 1970, in Ft. Riley, Kansas. They had two daughters, Melissa Kristine Smee Walker and Sarah “Gayle” Smee Minden. Melissa lives in Nashville with her husband Tim, and has three children: James Lawton, Katherine Alexandra, and Margaret Susan. Gayle lives in Denver with her husband, Vaun, and has one child: Zoe Elizabeth. Susan Smee lives in Burke, Virginia. We miss Jim every day.

From the September 1984 issue of Shipmate:

Maj. James Lawton Smee USMC was killed in an aircraft accident on 16 May 1984 near Yuma, Arizona. Interment was in Arlington National Cemetery on 30 May.

The son of Col. and Mrs. James Smee USA, he was graduated from the Community High School of Tehran, Iran, and received his appointment to the Naval Academy where he was graduated as number three man in the Class of 1970. After graduation from The Basic School with honors, he entered flight training and was designated naval aviator in 1972, later taking advanced training in the F-4 Phantom aircraft. He thereupon joined Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 235 at Kanohe, Hawaii, serving his first fleet tour until selected for the Olmstead Scholarship Program in 1974. Upon completion of the advanced course in French at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, he entered the University of Grenoble, France, and was awarded a Master of Arts degree in international relations in 1977.

Duty followed in Iwakuni, Japan, with Marine Aviation Group 15, then Amphibious Warfare School where he again graduated with honors, followed by assignments with Attack Squadrons 122 and 312, where he was nominated as Marine Aviator of the Year and completed two WestPac deployments, receiving a Navy Commendation Medal for superior performance of duty.

In January 1983 he was ordered to the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia, then joined MAWTS 1 as an instructor. He was noted throughout Marine aviation as an innovative tactician and for his uncommon grasp of combined/joint service operations.

In addition to the Navy Commendation Medal he had been awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, as well as campaign medals, and he was a member of the Naval Academy Alumni Association.

He is survived by his widow Susan, 1746 31st Drive, Yuma AZ 85346; two daughters; his mother and two sisters.

He is buried in Colorado.


From UPI on May 17, 1984:

Officials at the Yuma Marine Corps Air Station identified the two men killed Wednesday in a plane crash in southwestern Arizona.

Victims were the pilot, Capt. Stewart Gunst, 31, Lompoc, Calif., and the observer, Maj. James Smee, 36, Fort Lupton, Colo. Both were assigned to the Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 stationed at the Yuma base, officials said Thursday.

The propeller plane flown by Gunst crashed on the Luke Air Force Base training range, 29 miles southwest of Gila Bend, while participating in a weapons and tactics instructor course.

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Lowell Van Wagenen '70 was also in 29th Company.

Class of 1970

James is one of 20 members of the Class of 1970 on Virtual Memorial Hall.