From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Robert Smith '48

Date of birth: September 20, 1926

Date of death: August 19, 1969

Age: 42

Lucky Bag

From the 1948 Lucky Bag:

1948-B 17th Company

1948 Smith LB 1.jpg


1948 Smith 1.jpg


Bob prepped for the Naval Academy at Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, PA. At Wyoming he was a three year letterman who captained the football team, as well as being president of his class. Bob entered the Naval Academy in 1944. He was a member of the football team and Regimental Commander. He played end on the Quantico football team and was selected twice to All-Marine teams.

Bob earned his wings in 1952. He saw extensive carrier duty aboard Wright, Coral Sea and Forrestal; flying Corsairs, AD's, the F-8 and the F-4B. He also served in various staff positions including the staff of the Commander Sixth Fleet.

… The young architect who designed the Vietnam Memorial Wall grew up in Athens, Ohio, and was a neighbor of Bob's widow, Jane.


From POW Network:

On August 19, 1969, Lt.Col. Robert N. Smith, pilot, and Capt. John N. Flanigan, radar intercept officer, departed Da Nang in their F4B Phantom fighter/bomber jet aircraft to fly escort on a photo reconnaissance mission just north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

Smith's aircraft made one run over the target, and then he and the other aircraft separated and were supposed to rendezvous for a second run. Smith never returned for the second run, and contact was never established with Smith or his backseater.

While his RIO's remains were returned to the United States in 1997, Robert's have still not been.

From the 1979 July/August issue of Shipmate:

Col. Robert Norman Smith USMC, missing- in-action in Vietnam since 19 August 1969, was redesignated killed-in-action on 5 March 1979 by the Secretary of the Navy. Memorial services were to be held at Arlington National Cemetery.

Appointed to the Naval Academy from the State of Pennsylvania, he won his wings in 1952 and saw extensive carrier duty aboard WRIGHT, CORAL SEA, and FORRESTAL, flying Corsairs, ADs, the F-8 and the F-4B. His career also included tours on the Staff, Commander Sixth Fleet, aboard LITTLE ROCK, executive officer of VMA-332 at Cherry Point, North Carolina, SATS Project Officer at the Quantico, Virginia, Research and Development Center, and test aeronautical engineer at Cherry Point. He was serving as executive officer of Marine Air Group Eleven and was piloting a Phantom jet escorting a photo reconnaissance plane over South Vietnam when his aircraft was shot down near the demilitarized zone.

He was a graduate of the Navy Postgraduate School at Monterey and he eamed a master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Princeton University.

The son of Gen. Norman W. Smith and Mrs. Phyllis Smith of East Woodstock, Connecticut, he is survived by his widow, Jane, 6 Tulane Road, Athens OH 45701; two daughters, a son, and a granddaughter; and three brothers and a sister.


Bob's daughter, Robin, wrote an amazing and beautiful essay on her journey to find her dad.

We were asleep when the telegram arrived. My mother, in her bathrobe and slippers, opened the door. Two marines in uniform, feeling out of place in Athens, Ohio, stood nervously on our front porch. Mom's face must have betrayed her deepest fear. The colonel, my father's friend, rushed in.

"Jane, he's only missing!"

Words filled with hope, to comfort a wife too young to be a widow.

"I remember going out into the kitchen and falling down on my knees," mom told me years later. "And praying. Please, God, let him be alive!"

It has been almost twenty-seven years since my father became one of America's Missing In Action in Southeast Asia. I was a freshman in college when daddy - Lt. Colonel Robert Norman Smith, Annapolis grad, fearless fighter pilot - left for a thirteen month tour in Vietnam. He volunteered to go. Combat duty was mandatory for a gung-ho career officer determined to be the first aviator selected Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Sometime around noon on August 19, 1969, a lifetime of dreams was put on hold.

From Wall of Faces:

Assistant Fleet Marine Officer, Staff, Commander U.S. Sixth Fleet

As a young Petty Officer and former Navy dependent assigned to the same staff as then LCOL SMITH; I befriended his children, who were, as I had at their age, living in a foreign country away from their extended family. Later, I was on the USS RANGER (CVA-61) preparing for my second deployment to the Gulf of Tonkin when COL SMITH was lost. To this day I wear his MIA bracelet. He was a superb officer, father, and mentor. The Marine Corps, indeed, the nation lost a great man. His memory will live forever. DAVID W. REID, CTA1, USN (RET), USNVET@AOL.COM, 3/22/99

We miss and honor you Big Brother. I am proud to say you caused me to become a Marine PUNCH SMITH, 1/16/03

Every day I look at a gold set of wings that belonged to my father Col Robert N Smith and think of what he did to earn them, and wear them, proudly on his chest. CLAYTON SMITH, 2/27/15

I always remember as a boy living in Cherry Point what a great guy Col. Smith was. He was my dad's exec officer in VMA 332, and my dad thought he was a terrific marine, a terrific pilot, and a great guy. As kids, my brother and I idolized him and the pilots of 332. We sadly heard so long ago that he was lost in action while serving his country. It still hits me. So today, thinking about it, I want to honor this great soldier, and I do so on behalf of my dad and my family. JOHN PATTON, JOHN@PATTONSULLIVAN.COM, 5/25/15

Lt. Col Robert N Smith was my CO when I was stationed in Beaufort, SC with VMF(AW) 451. He was a very intelligent and compassionate Commanding Officer. I know the all the men respected and enjoyed working for him. I think of our loss often when I talk to other Vets about my service, he always comes up as a high point in my service and a real loss to his family and country. Rest in Peace Sir and God Bless you family and the men who served with and under you DAN REISING, 9/14/15


His sister's autobiography, "IT WAS NOTHING!" contains a few entertaining passages about Bob. He had two older siblings and four younger half-siblings; his father remarried after his mother died suddenly in 1933.


Bob is a remembered in the Quantico Marine Athletes Memorial.


Bob ejected from a F-8D Crusader on August 17, 1965; elsewhere described as "onboard USS Forrestal."

Related Articles

Charles Strahley '48 and Edward Supancic '48 were also on the same page of the 1948-B Lucky Bag, which was organized by state.

Edward Supancic '48 was also in 17th Company.

 David Swenson, Jr. '48 and Charles Strahley '48 were also also on the football team.

Class of 1948

Robert is one of 46 members of the Class of 1948 on Virtual Memorial Hall.