Born in Washington, D.C. on June 29, 1938, he was the son of UPI reporter, Albert Merriam Smith.
He joined the Army in 1962 and was trained as a helicopter pilot. While serving in this capacity in the Republic of Vietnam, he was killed in the crash of his aircraft on February 18, 1966. His body was recovered and returned to the United Staes where it was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.
The Honour-Smith Compound, a villa on Cong Ly Street in the city of Bien Hoa, was named in memory of two U.S. Army officers killed in action on 18 February 1966. Lieutenant Colonel Charles M. Honour, Jr.(145th CAB, CO) and his copilot Captain Albert M. Smith participated in numerous combat actions, including the evacuation of the Boi Loi Forest on 4 November 1965.
Honour and Smith served as the command element to a sixty-seven helicopter assault force against a Viet Cong battalion near the Boi Loi Forest. In the operation, the men were repeatedly exposed to small arms, automatic weapons and antiaircraft fire. Elements of 145th Aviation Battalion were to extract the friendly forces in a mass helicopter airlift just before dusk. The plan went awry when the superior numbered enemy force blocked the route to the designated landing area.
Determined not to abandon the 350 South Vietnamese troops, Honour and Smith scoured the surrounding jungle, systematically looking for an alternative site before nightfall. Honour decided on a small open area, about one quarter the size needed — requiring four airlift operations instead of the one rapidly executed mass airlift originally planned.
As dusk fell, the airlift began with the command helicopter hovering over the field, directing the operation. Although drawing heavy enemy fire, the first three lifts were successful, but when the last lift was unable to locate the landing area because of total darkness, Honour exposed his helicopter by illuminating the landing zone with his searchlight. It was only after the last soldier was safely in the air that the crew of the command helicopter pulled out of the Boi Loi Forest.
Before dawn, 18 February 1966, Colonel Honour, Captain Smith, Crew Chief Gary Artman, a gunner known as “Chris Lantz”, and two nurses of the 3d Field Hospital, Carol Drabza and Elizabeth Jones, departed Tan Son Nhut on a routine administrative flight to Bien Hoa. Although Colonel Honour had issued a directive prohibiting “tree-hopping,” it was reported that the unarmed slick flew precariously fast and low.
Thirty minutes later, UTT controller SP4 George Ridgeway responded to a call from a heavy fire team of the 197th. Final notes in Vietnam Military Lore . . . .Another Way To Remember explained that, On 16 February, the following radio conversation took place between Specialist Ridgeway (Little Joe Four-O) at Tan Son Nhut and a chopper pilot (Dragon Three-Four) of the 197th Aviation Company;
“Little Joe Four-O, this is Dragon Three-Four, reporting what appears to be a burning aircraft. Over.”
“Dragon Three-Four, request you verify. Understand burning aircraft. Over.”
“Little Joe – Three-Four. We have a downed aircraft. Over.”
“Three-Four – Little Joe. Can you identify and give location? Over.”
“Uh. . . . . .(long pause). . . .Roger, Little Joe. Can't get too close, aircraft is burning. There are power lines in the area. Over.”
“Little Joe – Three-Four. I read zero, one. It's hardly recognizable. Can hardly read numbers. Tail section intact. Coordinates XT950020. Over.”
“Roger. Understand, zero, one, eight. Do you see any survivors? Over.”
“Negative on survivors. Over.”
“Dragon Three-Four – Little Joe. Roger. Will send help. Request you remain on station. . . .”
Zero-One-Eight was the commander's aircraft. Honour and Smith's helicopter was downed and in flames. There were no survivors. The aircraft, while in low-level flight, was cut in two when it hit high-tension wires.
After their deaths the new compound on Cong Ly Street in Bien Hoa was unofficially named in memory of Honour and Smith.
WASHINGTON, February 28, 1966 – President and Mrs. Johnson attended the military funeral today for Captain AlbertM. Smith, Jr., an Army helicopter pilot killed in South Vietnam.
Captain Smith, son of the United Press International White House Correspondent, Merriman Smith, was buried in Arlington National Cemetery on a hillside slope less than 100 yards below the grave of President John F. Kennedy.
Vice President Humphrey also was among the 220 persons attending the services at theFort Myer Chapel and the adjacent cemtery.
CaptainSmith, who was 27 years old, was killed in a helicopter crash while flying as co-pilot on a mission on February 18.
SMITH, ALBERT M JR
VETERAN SERVICE DATES: Unknown
DATE OF BIRTH: 06/29/1938
DATE OF DEATH: 02/18/1966
DATE OF INTERMENT: 02/28/1966
BURIED AT: SECTION 32 SITE 823
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard