York, NE, February 23,
Van Nuys, CA, August 21,
|Third Squadron, Hell's Angels
|Chinese Nine Star Medal, Chinese Order of Cloud
Banner, British DFC, Air Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross and
Attended the University of Nebraska before joining U.S. Army Air Corps
in 1939, midway through his senior year. Received primary flight
training at Santa Maria, CA; basic training with Class 40-C at Randolph
Field, TX; and advanced training at Brooks Field, TX. Commissioned
a Second Lieutenant in June 1940, and returned to Randolph Field where
his first assignment was as a basic flight instructor.
Resigned commission in July of 1941 in order to join the AVG. Saw
his first combat action over Rangoon on December 23, 1941.
Promoted to Flight Leader in the Third Pursuit Squadron, he was credited
with shooting down 8.7 Japanese planes, and was twice decorated by the
|Post AVG, WWII:
|Returned to the US and was drafted into the Army as
a Private in December of 1942, but was quickly re-commissioned as a
US Air Corps Second Lieutenant and promoted to Major the next month.
For the next few months, as Commanding Officer of the 337 Fighter
Squadron, 329th Fighter Group at Grand Central Air Terminal,
Glendale, CA, and Paine Field, Everett, WA, he trained replacement
pilots using P-38s. He married Barbara Bradford in June of
1943. That fall, he volunteered to return to the
China-Burma-India Theater with the 1st Air Commando Group, flying
occasional P-51 missions and commanding that group's B-25 squadron.
R.T. (for 'Round Trip' according to Chuck Baisden, while in the 1st
Air Commando Group) was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in March,
1944, flew 55 combat missions over Burma, and was awarded the Air
Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, and Silver Star. He
returned to the States in the late spring of 1944 and was assigned
as Director of Flight Training with the 441st Army Air Force Base
Unit at Van Nuys, a P-38 training base in California.
|Post War Career:
|Resigned from the Air Corps at the conclusion of
World War II and settled in the San Fernando Valley in Southern
California. After flying for two years with Trans-World
Airlines (TWA), he wrote for the Hopalong Cassidy Western Adventure
Show, Lum and Abner, and the Clyde Beatty Show for several years.
He also was co-owner of a toy manufacturing company (Smith-Miller)
and developed and sold a product for conditioning automobile
convertible tops (Top Secret). He and Barbara were divorced in
1955. About that time, he joined Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
as a technical writer, working his way up through the organization,
first as a military sales representative for the F-104 Starfighter,
and later to open and manage a new corporate office for Lockheed in
Newport News, VA. He married Ronni Burkett in July of 1965.
During the late 60's, he joined the Flying Tiger Line, first as Vice
President for Industrial Affairs in Washington, D.C. and later as
Vice President for the Far East headquartered in Tokyo. He
left the Flying Tiger Line and Tokyo in the early 70's to live and
work in the Palm Springs area. He and Ronni were divorced in
the mid-70's. He returned to the San Fernando Valley where he
continued to reside until he died at age 77 of lung cancer on August
21, 1995. During this time he wrote and published Tale of a
Tiger, based on facsimiles of his original diary entries, and
several articles for Air Classics magazine. He also
established a mail-order business, selling his book and a variety of
color photographs he had shot while he was in the AVG and 1st Air
Commando Group. He was survived by his sister, June, who died
in 2001; three sons, Bradford, Robert, and William (William Reed
Smith, named in honor of his good friend, Bill Reed), and three
Contributed by Brad Smith.