William David Smith

Specialist Four
Army of the United States
20 September 1950 - 24 March 1971
Lafayette, LA
Panel 04W Line 074

Silver Star

Army Aircrew

Purple Heart, Air Medal, Army Commendation, Good Conduct, National Defense, Vietnam Service, RVN Military Merit, RVN Campaign
William D Smith

The database page for William David Smith


How do you compile and sort out memories, so clear and so vivid as if they happened a few moments ago, of a brother whose name is now engraved on a black granite wall in Washington and on a rose granite tombstone in Louisiana?

He was my childhood friend who would play with me and keep me company when the neighborhood kids made fun of my new glasses. I cherished his compassion. How proud I was of him when he built his racer and competed in the All-American Soap Box Derby. And he almost won, too, coming in second place in Akron, Ohio, and winning a $5,000 scholarship. He baked me a birthday cake for my 20th birthday, all fluffy white icing, with coconut (his favorite) and brought it to my apartment as a surprise. When my beloved dog died, he held a funeral and buried her for me. His heart was big and his loyalty strong. That last day together before he went to war, I put my arms around his thin waist as we flew down the beach on his motorcycle, not noticing that my ankle was being burned badly by his exhaust pipe. I wish that I could have held onto him much longer, I loved him so.

When Billy's body came home to rest, a friend of mine from LSU came to play his guitar and sing a song at his funeral. The song had been written and performed on television in the dark days following President John F. Kennedy's assassination. I had remembered it and asked that my friend perform it as a memorial to my brother. A misguided Baptist minister refused to allow it, saying he would not have a guitar or a "communist" song played in "his" church. It was such a small thing that hurt me deeply.

So now, 31 years later, I can finally give this song as a tribute to the brother I honor here, and for all who knew his kindness and strength.

by John Stewart

When you sit and wonder
           why things have gone so wrong
And you wish someone would tell us
           where our friend has gone.

Look then in the hills
           when there's courage in the wind
And in the face of freedom
           and those who look to Him.

And search within the heart
           of ev'ry young man with a song
Then I think we'll know
           where our friend has gone.

Summer takes the winter
           as the good years take the pain.
There'll be laughter in the land again
           but hearts won't be the same.

And I know I'll remember
           when a chill wind takes the sky
And speak of the years he gave us hope
           for they will never die.

And as we gaze at brave young men
           when yesterdays grow long,
Then I think we'll know
           where our friend has gone.

So, when you sit and wonder
           why things have gone so wrong.
It's then that we'll remember
           where our friend has gone.

I would be grateful if anyone who witnessed his crash
or who knew him, would contact me.
Let the healing begin.

Leah Angers
22 Sep 2002


Two men of F Troop, 1st of the 9th Cavalry, died in the crash of their OH-6A LOACH (hull number 68-17322):

William David Smith was awarded the Silver Star, our third highest decoration for valor in combat, for his actions as set forth in the following Citation:

Silver Star

April 1971

Number 8124


For gallantry in action while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile enemy force in the Republic of Vietnam. Specialist Four Smith distinguished himself by exeptionally valorous action on 24 March 1971 in the Republic of Vietnam. During a reconnaissance mission over a well fortified enemy bunker complex, Specialist Four Smith, the door gunner, observed several enemy soldiers as his aircraft began its descent into the hostile environment. With complete disregard for his own safety, Specialist Four Smith engaged the enemy with effective suppressive fire. As Specialist Four Smith attempted to protect the aircraft from the hostile forces, an enemy rocket struck the aircraft amidst a lethal crossfire from the enemy forces. Specialist Four Smith's gallantry in action and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

229TH AHB, D Co - Guns
Billy was in F Troop 1/9 CAV when he was killed, but he had served most of his time with D Company 229th 1st CAV for most of his time over there. He wrote nearly all his letters from Vietnam on the "Smiling Tigers" stationary, so I know he was proud of his unit. F Troop was apparently formed from the guys in D 229 sometime in December 1970, with some additions from other units during a re-organization. D Company had been mostly a cobra unit, but when it became F Troop, they added OH-6As and possibly a platoon of Hueys.

In addition to the Silver Star, Billy received other decorations and awards:

  • Purple Heart (Posthumously)
  • Air Medal (Posthumously)
  • Army Commendation Medal (Posthumously)
  • Good Conduct Medal (Posthumously)
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Vietnam Service Medal
  • Republic of Vietnam Military Merit Medal (Posthumously)
  • Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
  • Army Aircrewman Wings
  • Expert Badge w/Auto Rifle Bar
  • Sharpshooter Badge w/Rifle Bar
While visiting the Wall during Memorial Day 2002, I spent some time at the National Archives, compiling the following information from the Recommendation for the Silver Star for WO1 Steven M. Larrabee submitted by Captain Gary F. Eacott and from the Daily Staff Journal of Major Robert E. MacDonald, MI G-2-OPNS OFF.
"On 24 March 1971, WO1 Steven M. Larrabee was the pilot in command of an F Troop OH-6A which was acting as the scout aircraft on a "Sniffer" mission in the Tinh Long Khanh Province (near FSB Silver YT 829-043). The time of day was 1100 hours, the weather was clearing after a morning rain shower, and the terrain was gently rolling hills with 150' to 200' trees. The mission was being run independently of any friendly troops in the area of interest.

WO1 Larrabee was flying at tree top level about 100 meters to the left rear of the UH-1H which had the sensing equipment. As the LOH was making a pass over a large enemy bunker complex, WO1 Larrabee called out on the radio that he had spotted an individual on the ground wearing green shirt and shorts, and holding an AK-47. He immediately made a tight right hand turn to engage the enemy soldier with his door gunner's (SP4 George T. Diggs) M-60. At this time the observer (SP4 William D. Smith) had spotted and began to engage several other armed individuals from his side (left) of the aircraft. In spite of intense enemy return fire, WO1 Larrabee manuvered his aircraft in order to draw fire away from the "Sniffer" UH-1H aircraft. As the LOH was making another pass over the area, laying down suppressive fire, it was caught in a lethal crossfire of AK-47 and was simultaneously hit by a B-40 rocket. The LOH went into a violent spin, smashed through the jungle canopy and burst into flames upon impact with the ground in Tinh Binh Tuy Province (YT 836-066). Medivac from the 24th Evac at Long Binh was called at 1105. Blues were inserted at 1130. On insertion, one of the Blues sprained his back and possibly broke his jaw and was medivaced to FSB Mace YT 595-080). At 1205, the bird was reported as a combat loss, with all crew members extracted and injured, but not killed. At 1306, WO1 Steven M. Larrabee and SP4 William D. Smith were reported KIA and SP4 George T. Diggs as WIA.

SP4 George T. Diggs was recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroic efforts in defending the crew of the "Sniffer" aircraft as well as his comrades aboard the LOH. Both WO1 Steven M. Larrabee and SP4 William D. Smith received, posthumously, the Silver Star for gallantry in action."

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