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First Name: John

Last Name: Smith

Birthplace: Lexington, KY, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: Lucian

Date of Birth: 26 December 1914

Date of Death: 10 June 1972

Rank: Colonel

Years Served: 1936-1960
John Lucian Smith
'Meat Ball Smitty'

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)


John Lucian Smith

Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps

Medal of Honor Recipient

World War II

Colonel John Lucian Smith (26 December 1914 - 10 June 1972) was a U.S. Marine officer and fighter pilot who was a recipient of the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during World War II. As Commanding Officer of VMF-223, he shot down 19 Japanese planes and led his squadron to destroy a total of 83 enemy aircraft during the Solomon Islands campaign.

John Lucian Smith was born on 26 December 1914 in Lexington, OK. He attended the University of Oklahoma where he was a member of the Reserve Officers Training Corps, graduating in May 1936. During the same month, he was appointed a Second Lieutenant in the Army Field Artillery, but resigned in July that year to accept a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Second Lieutenant.

After receiving his Marine Corps commission, he was ordered to Marine Barracks, Navy Yard in Philadelphia, PA, where he attended the Marine Basic School. After various duty assignments at Quantico, VA; Washington, DC; and Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC; in 1937, he was transferred to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola in July 1938 to begin flight training. A year later he graduated and was designated a Naval Aviator.

During the crucial battle for the Solomons, he led Marine Fighter Squadron 223 (VMF-223) on sorties against the enemy, during which the squadron accounted for 83 enemy aircraft destroyed. While on temporary duty in Washington after his return from the Pacific, he was presented the Medal of Honor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on 24 February 1943.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Marine Corps, Marine Fighter Squadron 223.

Place and date: In the Solomon Islands area, August-September 1942.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and heroic achievement in aerial combat above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of Marine Fighting Squadron 223 during operations against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands area, August-September 1942. Repeatedly risking his life in aggressive and daring attacks, Maj. Smith led his squadron against a determined force, greatly superior in numbers, personally shooting down 16 Japanese planes between 21 August and 15 September 1942. In spite of the limited combat experience of many of the pilots of this squadron, they achieved the notable record of a total of 83 enemy aircraft destroyed in this period, mainly attributable to the thorough training under Maj. Smith and to his intrepid and inspiring leadership. His bold tactics and indomitable fighting spirit, and the valiant and zealous fortitude of the men of his command not only rendered the enemy's attacks ineffective and costly to Japan, but contributed to the security of our advance base. His loyal and courageous devotion to duty sustains and enhances the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

After several months' duty in Washington, he shipped overseas again that fall to serve as Executive Officer of Marine Aircraft Group 32, then located at Oahu, HI. A few months later, he moved to the Philippines and took part in the aerial offensives in the Bismarck Archipelago in November and December 1944; moved up to Luzon in the Philippines in January and February 1945; then on to Mindoro and Mindanao, and finally up to the Sulu Archipelago.

For his services in the Philippines during the period November 1944 to June 1945, he was awarded the Legion of Merit for exceedingly meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service as Executive Officer for Marine Aircraft Group 32 in extensive support of ground and surface forces in the liberation of Luzon, Zamboanga Peninsula, the Sulu Archipelago, and Mindanao.

After his return to the U.S. in June 1945, he served at the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, FL, until December 1945, and then was transferred to Quantico, VA, to serve as station operations officer. After his duty there and after performing various duties at Cherry Point, NC; Washington, DC; and Havana, Cuba; in 1946 and 1947, he was detached from duty at the Naval Air Station, Norfolk, VA, to perform duty involving flying on the staff of Commander, Air Force, Atlantic Fleet. In November 1948 he was on temporary aviation duty in England, France, and Germany.

Lieutenant Colonel Smith was detailed as Marine Corps Aide to the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department, Washington, in December 1949; promoted to Colonel on January 1, 1951; and in May 1951, he joined the Staff, Standing Group, of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, for two years. Following duty with Marine Training Group 10, at the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California, he began a year's duty in Korea in July 1953. He served first as Commanding Officer, Marine Aircraft Group 33, until February 1954, then as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-4 of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.

Upon his return from Korea, Colonel Smith was assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps in August 1954, and entered the National War College, completing the course in June 1955. The following month he was assigned to Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, as a member of the Advanced Research Group, serving in this capacity until July 1956. That August he assumed his duties at Pensacola Naval Air Station as Liaison Officer on the Staff of the Chief of Naval Air Training.

Colonel Smith retired from the Marine Corps on 1 September 1960 and worked in the defense industry until his death.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Legion of Merit with Combat "V"
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V"
Air Medal with 3 Gold Stars (4 Awards)
Presidential Unit Citation
Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon with 1 Bronze Star
American Defense Service Medal with Base Clasp
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 1 Silver Star (Indicative of 5 Bronze Stars)
American Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Navy Occupation Service Medal with European Clasp
National Defense Service Medal
Korean Service Medal with 1 Bronze Star
United Nations Service Medal
Philippine Liberation Ribbon with 1 Bronze Star
Philippine Presidential Unit Citation
Korean Presidential Unit Citation

Death and Burial

Colonel John Lucian Smith died on 10 June 1972 in Encino, CA. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in Section 3, Lot 2503-H-2.

Honoree ID: 1653   Created by: MHOH




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