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First Name: Leonard

Last Name: Smith

Birthplace: Hamilton, Ravalli, MT, US

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Home of Record: CA
Middle Name: Leroy

Date of Birth: 27 April 1917

Date of Death: 05 June 1943 (Presumed)

MIA Date: 04 June 1942

Rank or Rate: Ensign

Years Served: 1940-1943

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Leonard Leroy Smith

Ensign, United States Naval Reserve

Navy Cross

Leonard L. was the youngest son and child of Harry L Smith and Helen I Hickey who married on 06 April 1910 in Hamilton, Ravalli, MT. Leonard's siblings were Della Jane, and Lloyd Mason Smith. The family moved to San Bernardino, CA area during the 1920s. Leonard attended the Ontario, CA Junior High School followed by Chaffey High School. In high school, Leonard's subject majors were English, Shop, Mathematics and History. He was active in sports playing football and participating in Track. He was also active in high school clubs: Aviation, Hi-Y, Anthology and Physical Science. Leonard graduated from Chaffey High School on 06 June 1935 in commencement exercises held in the Chaffey amphitheater. He continued his education at Chaffey Junior College in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, CA, for the next two years graduating on 11 June 1937. While at Chaffey JC he majored in Political Science. He was active in sports participating in football and track. Finding a job after college didn't come easy for Leonard Smith. During 1939 he worked only six weeks and in early 1940 he was employed as a filling station attendant.

Leonard applied for the Volunteer United States Naval Reserve V-5 flight training program in March 1940 at the Naval Reserve Aviation Base (NRAB), Long Beach, CA. He passed a physical exam, provided high school and college educational records, wrote a personal resume and was interviewed by the Naval Reserve Flight Selection Board. He was recommended by the board for flight training in the Naval Reserve.

Smith enlisted on 08 May 1940 as a Seaman 2/c for a period of four years. He reported for active duty under training to NRAB, Long Beach, CA for elimination flight training on 15 May. This was must-pass training if a candidate was to continue on to Pensacola and intermediate flight training. He completed elimination training on 14 Jun 1940. Leonard was recommended for placement on the eligible list for possible later appointment as an aviation cadet and flight training along with 12 other candidates. He was discharged from active service and sent home to await further orders.

On 15 May 1940, in response to the looming threat of war, the US Navy called for a significant increase in nation-wide recruitment of Volunteer Naval Reserve Aviators. Normally, the time between completion of elimination training and receipt of follow-on orders to Pensacola for intermediate training was less than 45 days. However, because of the extremely large number of cadets suddenly in the training pipeline it would be almost six months before Smith was to receive his orders for active duty under instruction at Pensacola.

In late Nov 1940, Smith received orders from the Navy Department. He was discharged from enlisted status active duty in early Dec 1940 at NRAB, Long Beach to accept an appointment as an Aviation Cadet (AVCAD) in the Volunteer US Naval Reserve. He accepted the appointment and executed the oath of office as an AVCAD. He also received orders to proceed to the Naval Air Station (NAS), Pensacola, FL and, on 30 Dec 1940, report to the Commandant for active duty undergoing training. Once he arrived at NAS Pensacola, Smith was assigned to the 85 cadet strong Class 158-C.

After he completed his intermediate flight training under instruction at NAS Pensacola in early June 1941, Smith detached and transferred to Opa-Laka, FL and NAS, Miami for temporary active duty undergoing specialized training for pilots who will fly carrier-based aircraft. He reported in mid-June. About 15 July, Smith was appointed a Naval Aviator (Heavier-Than-Air) at NAS Miami effective 03 June1941. He took the oath of office and received his commission as an Ensign, A-V(N), US Naval Reserve about 15 July with a date of rank of 03 June 1941.

Following his commissioning, he received orders to aviation squadron Torpedo Squadron Three (VT-3) for duty involving flying. He detached from NAS Miami and reported for temporary duty to the Advanced Carrier Training Group (ACTG) in San Diego. After completing that assignment Ensign Smith reported for duty to VT-3 in late summer 1941. VT-3 was attached to the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV-3).

Saratoga was in a refit/overhaul status most of 1941, therefore, her attached squadrons, including VT-3, were based at several Naval Air Stations in Hawaii or the west coast. On 07 Dec 1941, Saratoga was entering San Diego to embark her air group, which was ashore while she was undergoing refit. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Saratoga became the flagship of an unsuccessful American effort to relieve Wake Island. A few weeks later on 11 Jan 1942 Saratoga was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. She steamed to Pearl Harbor for temporary repairs arriving on 13 Jan 1942. She returned to the Bremerton Navy Yard for permanent repairs on 09 Feb 1942. During the yard period Saratoga's embarked squadrons were transferred elsewhere. VT-3 was assigned first to NAS Pearl Harbor at Ford Island then to NAS Kaneohe Bay on Hawaii.

On 28 May 1942, the squadron was temporarily reassigned to the aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown (CV-5). Aviation squadrons from Air Group Three and Five flew on board Yorktown shortly after she got underway from Pearl Harbor in company with the USS Hornet (CV-8) and USS Enterprise (CV-6). They steamed to a point on the navigation chart nicknamed "Point Luck" to await the arrival of the Japanese Striking Force which was steaming from Japan to attack Midway Island.

On 28 May 1942, when the squadron was reassigned to the USS Yorktown (CV-5). About a week later on 4 June 1942, Ensign Smith and his gunner ARM3 Raymond J. Darce, took off from the USS Yorktown (CV-5) with other elements of the Yorktown air group to attack the Japanese Striking Forces approaching Midway. Although they had some friendly fighter protection VT-3 had to thread their way through a gauntlet of swarming enemy fighters and a hail of anti-aircraft fire. Of the twelve planes that took off from the Yorktown that morning only two survived the attack. Ens. Smith and Petty Officer Darce did not return from this mission, and they were listed as missing in action on 04 Jun 1942. Their remains were unrecoverable. The Smith family was notified via telegram on 18 Jun that their son was missing in the service of his country. On 5 Jun 1943, he was presumed dead.

Ens. Smith was awarded the Navy Cross. It was the only medal that was not awarded posthumously to him. Ens. Smith was still in a missing status and not declared dead when the Navy Cross was awarded. He was also awarded (Posthumously) the Purple Heart, American Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/one bronze star, and the World War II Victory Medal.


The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Leonard L. Smith, Ensign, United States Naval Reserve, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Torpedo Plane of Torpedo Squadron THREE, attached to the U.S.S. YORKTOWN, during the "Air Battle of Midway," against enemy Japanese forces on 4 June 1942. Participating in a Torpedo Plane assault against Japanese naval units, Ensign Smith, in the face of tremendous anti-aircraft fire and overwhelming fighter opposition, pressed home his attack to a point where it became relatively certain that, in order to accomplish his mission, he would probably sacrifice his life. Undeterred by the grave possibilities of such a hazardous offensive, he carried on, with extreme disregard for his own personal safety, until his squadron scored direct hits on two enemy aircraft carriers. His self sacrificing gallantry and fortitude were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 309 (December 1942)


Honor Scroll

His family also received a scroll from President Franklin D. Roosevelt in commemoration of Ensign Smith. The citation reads: In grateful memory of Leonard Leroy Smith, who died in the service of his country, SEA, Pacific Area, ATTACHED U.S.S. YORKTOWN, 5 JUNE 1943 (Presumed). He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live and grow and increase its blessings. Freedom lives, and through it, he lives -- in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men.

(Signed) Franklin D. Roosevelt,

President of the United States


Combat Action Ribbon (CR) note:

None of the Navy/Marine flight crews in the Battle of Midway were eligible for or were awarded the Combat Action Ribbon (CR). See Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual (SECNAVINST M-1650.1 of 16 Aug 2019, Appendix 2C.1.c (3) Amplifying Guidance). It reads in part, “The CR will not be awarded in connection with aerial flight, . . . “ The CR was established in 1969 and made retroactive to 07 Dec 1941. According to the Awards Manual, when deemed appropriate, the award for aerial combat is the Air Medal.


The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) - 23 Jul 1942, Thu - Page 22

Navy Announces 12 Casualties From Los Angeles District

Long Beach Man One of Two Californians Who Died In Action Between July 1 and 10

No Word Received From Smith Since May

Ensign Leonard Leroy Smith, 25, son of Mr. and Mrs. H.L. Smith of 514 Sierra Court, Ontario, had been flying in the Pacific war theater since start of the war. The last direct word received from him by his parents was in May. He attended Chaffey High School and was graduated in 1937 from Chaffey Junior College. Ensign Smith entered the Naval Air Force in October, 1940. He received his preliminary training at Long Beach, after which he was sent to the Naval Academy at Pensacola, Fla., and was commissioned at Miami, Fla., in August 1941.


The San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, California) - 14 Jul 1943, Wed - Page 13

War Department Reports Death of Ontario Ensign

Ontario, July 13. – Ensign Leonard LeRoy Smith, well known young Ontarian, reported “missing in action” following the battle of Midway, June 4, 1942, was today officially declared deceased. Ensign Smith’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. H.L. Smith, 514 Sierra court, who last fall received the Navy Cross and citation for bravery awarded their son, were today in receipt of a communication from James Forrestal, acting secretary of the navy. “After a full review of all available information, “reads the communication in part, “I am reluctantly forced to the conclusion that your son, Ensign Leonard LeRoy Smith, is deceased, having been reported ‘missing in action’ while . . . based on the U.S.S. Yorktown, when the plane of which he was pilot was shot down in the battle of Midway.”

In conclusion, the acting secretary expresses the “hope that you will find comfort in the knowledge that your son gave his life for his country, upholding the highest traditions of the navy. The bravery of those who made possible the victory of Midway will always be remembered by a grateful people.” Lieut. Lloyd Mason Smith, another son of the Ontario couple, is at present stationed with the army air force at March field.


[Bio #177 compiled by Gerry Lawton (G47/GML470)]

Find A Grave Memorial #56131954

Honoree ID: 102190   Created by: MHOH




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