Willard J. Smith – Admiral, United States Coast Guard

Admiral Willard J. Smith, a former Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, has died. He was 89.

A memorial service was scheduled in Atlantic Beach, Florida, on Friday for Smith, who died there April 1, 2000. He was the oldest living former commandant until his death.

Smith, born in Suttons Bay, Michigan, served as commandant from July 1966 until his retirement in June 1970. During his tenure, he oversaw the Coast Guard’s transition from the Treasury Department to the Department of Transportation in April 1967.

Smith was the first aviator to serve as commandant and held previous posts with the Coast Guard in Cleveland, Ohio, and New London, Connecticut.

Smith’s cremated remains will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery at 2 p.m. on April 27, the Coast Guard said. Smith’s survivors include a daughter and a son.


ADM Willard J. Smith, USCG, 1910-2000
13th Commandant, 1966-1970

ADM Willard J. Smith, USCG(Ret.), 89, passed  away April 1, 2000 in Atlantic Beach, Fla. ADM  Smith served as the 13th Coast Guard  Commandant from 1966-1970, was the oldest  living former Commandant, and the first aviator to  have held the Coast Guard’s highest-ranking  position. Born in Suttons Bay, Mich., on May 14,  1910, Smith graduated Charlevoix, Mich. High  School in 1927 and attended the University of  Michigan for two years studying engineering. He  then entered the Coast Guard Academy,  graduating in 1933, second in his class. He  served as an aide to wartime Commandant ADM  Russell R. Waesche until 1939, and then again  from fall 1944 until 1946. During World War II,  while serving as commanding officer of the Coast  Guard Air Station at San Francisco, he made a  daring open sea landing in rough water to bring a  stricken naval officer ashore for medical  treatment, an act that earned him a Letter of  Commendation.

During his career, he served as commanding officer of Air Station Traverse City, Mich., Assistant Chief, Aviation Division at Headquarters (along with other HQ positions), as commanding officer of CGC Mackinaw and as 13th District Chief of Operations in Seattle. In 1962, he became Superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., and brought CGC Eagle to Washington, D.C. where he hosted President Kennedy onboard. In 1964, he skippered the CGC Eagle as host ship of the first Operation Sail. A year later, he became Commander, 9th Coast Guard District in Cleveland, before becoming Commandant in 1966.

During his tenure as Commandant, he oversaw the service’s transition from the Treasury Department to the Department of Transportation in April 1967.

Even then, the Coast Guard’s missions had expanded to the extent that Smith was quoted as saying the words “Coast Guard” gave only a limited picture of the service’s responsibilities. In a 1970 interview, he said, “People are surprised, for example, that we have ships and men in Vietnam.” ADM Smith retired from the Coast Guard on June 1, 1970, spending most of his retirement in Traverse City, Mich. Prior to leaving  Washington, D.C. he was invited by Secretary of Transportation John A. Volpe to become Assistant Secretary of the newly created Office of Safety and Consumer Affairs, serving in that post from October 1970 until July 1971. ADM Smith is survived by his daughter, Lary; son, Jeffrey; and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A memorial service was held April 7, 2000 at the Fleet Landing Officers Club in Atlantic Beach, Fla. Interment was held at Arlington National Cemetery on April 27, 2000 with full military honors.

His cremated remains were buried with those of his wife, the former Harriet A. Lary of Los Angeles, who died on Feb. 2, 2000. Cards and other written condolences can be sent to 5516 Rigel Court, Atlantic Beach, FL, 32233 or HC77 Box 58, Hancock Point Road, Hancock, ME 04640. In lieu of flowers, the family wishes that donations be made to the Coast Guard Foundation (www.cgfdn.org), 394 Taugwonk Road, Stonington, CT 06378-1807, 860-535-0786, e-mail: [email protected]

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