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Leo Smith

West Virginia
Veterans Memorial

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Leo Smith
1916-1945

"If our country is worth dying for in time of war let us resolve that it is truly worth living for in time of peace."

Hamilton Fish

Technician 4th Class Leo Smith, a native of Julian, Boone County, West Virginia, was born in 1916, the oldest child of Henry J. and Caldonia A. Smith. Henry and Caledonia’s family consisted of brothers Paul, Doutain, Henry (better known as Lon), Leo, George, and sister Blanche. Caledonia died while the children were growing up, and Henry J. remarried and raised another family.

According to U.S. Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, Leo registered at Huntington on January 20, 1941. At his registration, he stated that he was single, had attended four years of high school, and was engaged as a semiskilled miner or mining-machine operator. Leo’s brother Doutain provided further details: Leo attended grade school at Julian Elementary and graduated from Montgomery High School. Prior to his enlistment, he worked in the coal mines. Doutain remembers his older brother as being “very industrious.”

Doutain Smith recalled that Leo was “very intelligent” and “had a good personality.” Because Leo was the oldest child, and perhaps because of the death of his mother, he was, in Doutain’s words, “very caring for the family.” When the U.S. became involved in World War II, there seemed to be no question that all the brothers in the Smith family, as was the case with many families, would do their service.

George Smith
George Smith
Courtesy Doutain Smith family
In addition to Leo, Paul saw action and was awarded the Silver Star. Lon, on the other hand, joined the Navy, and Doutain signed up for the Navy but saw no action because he received a medical discharge. George, who was too young to enlist in the Army during the war, signed up after the war was over when he became old enough. Nor did their contributions stop with military service; Doutain’s wife Agnes was a Rosie the Riveter!
Lon Smith
Lon Smith
Courtesy Doutain Smith family

A story (“Silver Star Given”) in the July 12, 1945, Battalion Reporter describes Paul’s gallantry:

Paul Smith
Pvt. Paul Smith
Courtesy Doutain Smith family
It isn’t every man who can leave the service bearing a silver star for gallantry in action. And Pvt. Paul Smith, long member of Btry. A, has reason to be proud.

Smith’s award comes as the result of action on 28 February 1945 near Duren, Germany, when shrapnel from an enemy artillery burst caused death and serious injury to a truck crew of 13 men and set fire to their equipment.

The citation continues: “Pvt. Smith immediately took charge of the situation. With no thought of his personal safety, he proceeded to remove the dead and wounded from the burning vehicle and then secured medical aid from a nearby medical unit. After ascertaining that the wounded were being cared for, Pvt. Smith, although the area was still being subjected to heavy enemy artillery, remounted the vehicle and proceeded to unload the ammunition and gas, as well as camouflage nets, from the burning vehicle. He organized a fire squad to combat the fire. This action prevented complete destruction of the vehicle which, with the imminent explosion of is cargo, would have resulted in damage to the adjacent medical installation and further casualties to a convoy passing on the main supply route. This devotion to duty and courage reflects highest credit upon himself and the armed forces of the United States.”

Leo Smith’s life in the military probably followed the same course as thousands of others—days of intense action followed by the lull of boring days on end. A May 13, 1944, V-mail to his brother Doutain reflects on his daily life and his eagerness to hear from his family:

Hello Brother,

Was very glad to hear from you and to know that you are still OK and working. Beats the Army. ,

You are lucky, being close to the hometown girls and being able to visit them often. They write about you often. They seem to think you like their room mate. ,

Had a letter from Paul a few days ago. He is still here in England and having lots of fun. Don’t guess Lon is quite so lucky. At least I don’t think I would like to be in New Guinea. ,

We are having a field day and barbarcue [sic] today. Several sports events are scheduled, also dancing, eating and drinking, should have an enjoyable time. What kind of work are you doing? Write and tell me all about everything, work, play, girl friends and all. Let’s watch that steering clear of the girls. What do you want? to end up like me? Grab the first good bet. Wish sometimes that I had. ,

I’ll have to close now in order to see the baseball game. Be good, take care of yourself and tell everyone hello. ,

Your Brother,
Leo

Leo Smith V-mail
V-mail from Leo Smith

Telegram of Leo's death
Telegram announcing Leo's death
T/4 Smith was assigned to the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, he died in Luxembourg on January 19, 1945. (More on the Battle of the Bulge can be found at http://www.army.mil/botb/ or http://worldwar2history.info/Bulge/. A detailed account of this military campaign is Hugh M. Cole’s online book The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge [http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/7-8/7-8_cont.htm].)

For his service, Leo was awarded the Purple Heart. He was buried in the Luxembourg American Cemetery.
Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial
Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial.
Courtesy American Battle Monuments Commission

Information and pictures were provided by Leo’s brother Doutain Smith and his wife Agnes and their daughter Sandra Hutchinson. Article by Patricia Richards McClure.

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West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.


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