Donald Clayton Smith

First Lieutenant
United States Air Force
27 August 1937 - 20 December 1965
Mc Camey, Texas
Panel 04E Line 031


USAF Pilot

Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Donald Clayton Smith

20 Nov 2004

Donald grew up in the West Texas town of McCamey. It is primarily an oil field town. He was a pilot on a C-130E and the plane went down under hostile conditions in South Vietnam. No one on the plane survived. He is remembered by his community and by the Permian Basin Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Midland, Texas.

At our recent "Last Dustoff" dedication, a gentlemen came up to me as I was visiting with someone else and he asked me if I had a picture for Lt. Smith from McCamey for our site and I told him I did not and he said he would get one to me. It was an emotional moment for him. Before I could excuse myself to talk with him further, he was gone. The Vietnam War still evokes strong emotions some three and a half decades later. For Lt. Smith it was 39 years ago that he was lost. May his sacrifice never be forgotten.

From a PBVVM representative,
Billy M. Brown

14 Jan 2006

Donald's sister, Sue Gryder of Logo Vista, Texas send me the pictures for his tribute on The Virtual Wall.

From a PBVVM representative,
Billy M. Brown
4015 Melody Lane, Odessa, Texas 79762

27 Oct 2005

I was a copilot in Don's squadron at Dyess AFB and flew with him on a trip to pick up the remains of a crashed F-105 at George AFB. He was a really good pilot. Then he and I and our entire squadron went PCS to CCK at Taichung, Taiwan. We did most of our flying out of a forward base at Nha Trang, RVN. One evening he and his crew were lounging in our Quanset hut after a day of hard flying to several bases up and down Vietnam. He was summoned to go back out and fly a night mission to a beleagured Army post, Tuy Hoa. No runway lights there - just 5 gallon flare cans.

Cans of burning fuel every 300 feet along one side of the runway. They missed their first approach. On their second approach they hit the ground. I was good friends with the entire crew for about a year. It was a terrible loss for no reason. Two days later we had a small service at the flight line. A chaplain read the 23rd Psalm. We sang the Air Force hymn, prayed the Lord's prayer, and went to fly our airplanes. The report of the crash details is second-hand from the squadron investigators. I believe it is accurate.

Lowell Schroeder,
then USAF Captain
later Northwest Airlines 747s at Seattle

From a pilot in the same squadron,
Capt. Lowell J. Schroeder

23 Jan 2006


by his sister and brother,
Sue Gryder

Errol Smith

A Note from The Virtual Wall

On 20 Dec 1965 five men died in the crash of a C-130E (tail number 62-01843) from the 345th Troop Carrier Squadron :
  • 1stLt Donald C. Smith, McCamey, TX, pilot;
  • 1stLt David J. Wax, Brookline, MA, copilot;
  • Capt Terry F. Katterhenry, Sidney, OH, navigator;
  • TSgt William H. Crisp, Fitzhugh, OK, flight mechanic; and
  • A1C Willie Mitchell, Washington, DC, loadmaster.
The aircraft, carrying a load of aviation fuel, was on approach to Tuy Hoa air base under adverse weather conditions when it crashed on high ground about five miles south of the runway. Although there was no clear evidence of hostile action, the Air Force classed it as a hostile loss. The remains of four men were recovered in February 1966, but the remains of 1stLt Wax were not recovered and identified until August 1993.

The 345th Troop Carrier Squadron was redesignated during the Vietnam period, becoming the 345th Tactical Airlift Squadron.

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 20 Nov 2004
Last updated 08/10/2009