Richard Dean Smith

United States Air Force
16 August 1937 - 01 December 1977
Wichita, Kansas
Panel 01E Line 095


B-57 Canberra

USAF Navigator/Bombardier

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

The database page for Richard Dean Smith

09 Dec 2005

I met Richard Smith when he was one of my Aviation Cadet Navigator students at Harlingen AFB, TX in 1960. After graduation from Nav School Richard remained as a Nav Instructor. Richard was assigned to my flight at the 3611th Nav Training Sq and I became his mentor instructor. I PCS'd in 1961 and lost track of him until I learned that he and several other friends, all navigators, had checked out in B-57's and were assigned to Bien Hoa AB, RVN. On 10 March 1965, I brought a load of fragmentation bombs into Bien Hoa and our airplane, a C-124, had maintainence problems. We stayed the night and had dinner with all my old friends from Harlingen. It was a great night, catching up on experiences and family. Richard and I met for breakfast the next morning, March 11, then walked to base ops where my crew was about ready to depart for our mission to Tan Son Nhut and then on to Clark AB, PI. We shook hands and promised to have dinner when I got back to Bien Hoa later in March.

When I returned to Bien Hoa in April, I learned that Richard's B-57 had crashed that day we shook hands and planned our next dinner. My last remembrance of Richard is his smiling face, firm hand shake and an exuberance for going to fly his next mission. It wasn't until 2003 that I found that Richard's remains were not found and identified until 1994.

I counted Richard D. Smith as a friend and fellow warrior. He is not forgotten!

Jimmy Pickens

A Note from The Virtual Wall

Although B-57 Canberra bombers had first deployed to Vietnam in 1964, they weren't released for offensive operations until early 1966. While the aircraft proved too vulnerable for use over North Vietnam they were very useful in the less well defended airspace over Laos and South Vietnam.

On 11 March 1966 two Canberras of the 8th Bomb Squadron departed Bien Hoa Air Base for a visual strike against a target some 30 miles north of Kontum City. One of the aircraft, B-57B tail number 53-3890, burst into flames and crashed immediately after a low-altitude weapons release, possibly due to fragmentation damage from its own bombs. The body of the pilot, Captain William C. Mattis of Acampo, California, was recovered shortly after the loss, but the remains of the bombardier-navigator, 1stLt Richard D. Smith, were not located. He was classed as Missing in Action and remained in that status until the Secretary of the Air Force approved a presumptive Finding of Death on 01 Dec 1977.

A JTF-FA investigation led to the repatriation of fragmentary remains on 07 Feb 1994. On 06 Sep 1994 the Defense Department announced that the remains had been identified as those of Richard D. Smith.

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Last updated 08/10/2009