Charles Lee Smith

Picture of Charles Lee Smith CHARLES LEE SMITH, born March 1, 1924 in Tulsa, Okla., where he attended school through the fifth grade. The family moved to Skiatook, Okla., where he was graduated from high school in May 1941.

In March 1942 he applied for the Aviation Cadet program and was accepted. He was sworn in April 21, 1942 as a private in the U.S. Army Air Corps awaiting a call as an Aviation Cadet. Called as a cadet for the class of 43-E, he received training in the southeast training command receiving his wings at Napier Field, Dothan, Ala., in July, 1943 in the class of 43-G. In advanced training, he was awarded the "Star Pot" for the best air-to-ground gunnery score in his class. He received transitional training for the P-47 in Richmond, Va., soloing Aug. 15, 1943. He was assigned, as a charter member, to the 366th Fighter Group, 391st Fighter Squadron, "D" Flight which was being formed and trained at Bluethenthal Field, Wilmington, N.C., under the command of Col. Dyke Meyer. After training, the 366th left the U.S. for England in Dec. 1943.

He flew 96 missions plus three flights for which he received combat time but no mission credit. He remembers the sixth of June, D-Day, very well, but he remembers the 12th of June even better. "D" Flight Commander Maxey McGuire blew a cylinder (Jug) on his engine and crash landed near an airstrip being constructed by the British. Smith, with gear down, drug the field until all equipment and personnel were removed from the strip.

After landing, he explained to the British Major that he wanted to check on his flight commander. McGuire walked into the area with his only injury of a cut on his forehead. Not wishing to wait for a boat back to England, McGuire suggested that he ride back with Smith. Smith stowed his parachute in the radio compartment, gave the seat cushion to the British, helped McGuire into the cockpit and buckled him in. Smith sat on McGuire's lap and flew back to England.

Smith isn't sure but he thinks he made the first landing and takeoff in France by an allied P-47 . He also thinks this was the first "piggyback" ride in a combat zone.

Smith became "D" Flight Commander, was awarded the DFC, the Air Medal with 18 Oak Leaf Clusters, the EAME medal with 4 battle stars, the Presidential Unit Citation and the Belgian Fourragere. He had 237:50 hours combat in the P-47 and 463:55 total hours in the P-47.

Returning to civilian life, he was graduated from Stanford University with a degree in economics. While at Stanford, he married a classmate, Dorothy. They have three children, Lee Stephen, Laura Gernon and Jeffrey Andrews. Smith spent three years in the Okla. Air National Guard where he flew the P.51 and the F-80. He was retired from the Air Force Reserves in 1968 as a Lt. Col.

Smith is self-employed as a manual systems specialist in the medical and industrial fields.

List of all p51 Pilots:
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Pilot Name Biography Summary
Asa A. Adair He returned to the States in August of 1944 after participating in the invasion "D" Day. He flew P-63's, P-51's, F-80's, T-33's, F-84's, T-38's, P-47's in numerous assignments during the following twenty years in in, Japan, U.S.A. and Europe before retiring after twenty-six years of Active Duty.
John C. Anderson After P-47 transition he was assigned to the 406th Fighter Group, 512th Fighter Squadron. (E.T .0.) He flew 56 missions through January, 1945 destroying supply routes, bridges, and railroads; he also flew close support missions with the ground forces, with attacks on tanks, artillery and enemy positions.
W.B. 'Tex' Badger Eight and Ninth Air Force in WWII. B-l7's, P-51's and P-47's. Fifth Air Force in Korea, F80's and F86's. WWII and Korea, Flew 156 missions. Tactical units served in with the USAAF and USAF were: 305th BG , 368th Fighter Group, 4th Fighter Group, 49th Fighter Group, 12th Fighter Wing, 506th Fighter Wing.
Robert T. (Bob) Bagby He trained in P47's at Cross City and Dale Mabry Fields, Florida and then joined the 341st FS Black Jack Squadron), 348th FG of the 5th AF in Brisbane, Australia in June 1943. Bob flew 78 combat missions in New Guinea (Port Moresby, Finchafen, Sador, Wakde and Biak) primarily as wingman to squadron CO's John Campbell and John Moore. Also privileged to fly wing to Neil Kirby on several occasions.
Frank Baker After brief stops at Stone and Atcham, England he joined the 313th Fighter Squadron of the 50th Fighter Group in France. He flew 90 missions through V.E. Day. Most of the missions were close support attacks on various ground targets with a few B-26 escort missions thrown in. All of the missions took place in eastern France and southern Germany. He was awarded the Air Medal with 11 oak leaf clusters.
John M. Balason To relieve the boredom, Balason went down on the deck and blew up a locomotive he had observed at altitude. A few seconds after making his strafing pass he received a hit in his left wing tank and a fire started immediately in the cockpit. The paralyzing effect of the intense heat made climbing out of the cockpit impossible.
Albert W. Barlow, Jr. He flew 69 escort and ground support missions. Destroyed one E/A (ME-I09). Was shot down on Sept. 8, 1944, and evaded enemy ground forces for 8 days. Was picked up by an American Recon. Unit behind the German lines. Was hospitalized until Feb. 1948, when he was medically retired with the rank of Capt. Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, and Purple Heart.
William T. Beckler In July, 1944 Beckler exchanged his P-40 for a P-47N Thunderbolt. Missions in the Jug covered Northern Italy and Southern France. These included escorting medium bombers. The Bombers, based in Southern Italy, would be escorted to France by Thunderbolts based on Corsica. Shortly before target the Jugs would pull ahead of the bombers and bomb the enemy gun positions. Beckler's activities while participation in three major campaigns earned him the DFC, two Air Medals and two Presidential citations.
Herbert R. Benson After training in P-47 Thunderbolts at bases in North Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware, he was assigned to the European Theatre of operations and joined the 48th Fighter Group 493rd Fighter Squadron at St. Trond, Belgium. After flying 44 combat missions, he was awarded the Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf clusters.
Marvin C. Bigelow Training in the Southeast Training Command with the class of 44C, he graduated and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant single engine pilot at Marianna, Florida with the class of 44D. After checking out in the P-40 at Marianna, he transitioned in the P-47 in the Northeast Defense Command and after gunnery at Dover, Delaware was shipped on the Queen Mary to England.
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