William Ward Smith

United States Air Force
15 January 1934 - 23 July 1966
Searcy, AR
Panel 09E Line 064

William Ward Smith

O-1 Birddog

Silver Star

USAF Pilot

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

The database page for William Ward Smith

"It is better to have lived one day as a lion
than one thousand days as a sheep."

William Ward Smith
Captain, USAF - 505th Tactical Control Group, SF
Born January 15, 1934, Ione, Arkansas
Killed in Action July 23, 1966, South Vietnam

Capt. William Ward "Mike" Smith, 32, was on a visual reconnaissance mission in the Quang Tri Province on July 23, 1966, in support of the U.S. Marine Corps' Operation Hastings. He was flying approximately 16 miles west of Dong Ha, South Vietnam, on a Forward Air Control mission controlling a flight of F-4B aircraft. At the completion of the airstrike, his O-1E collided with a Marine helicopter at 2500 feet.

The right wing of the smaller plane separated from the fuselage and the plane fell to the ground. The tail section was later found imbedded in trees estimated at 150 feet off the ground. A para-rescue officer later in the day was lowered in a sling to search the area. He spotted debris and human remains but could not make an identification because the area was in hostile territory.

Search and rescue forces were not able to recover the body at that time, and the area remained hostile. To this date his remains have never been recovered.

Smith was a veteran pilot with 12 years in the Air Force. He was attached to the 505th Tactical Control Group as a forward air controller. He arrived in Vietnam on May 26, 1966.

He was born in Logan County, Arkansas, graduated from Searcy High School (White County) and attended Arkansas Polytechnic College in Russellville before entering the Air Force. He was commissioned a navigator and later received his pilot's wings. He flew C-119s in the Military Transport Service and B-47s in the Strategic Air Command. He attended Texas Technological College at Lubbock, Texas while in the Air Force and graduated with honors with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1964. Prior to his assignment in Vietnam he was stationed at the Space Systems Division of the Air Force at Los Angeles, where he worked on the Thor missile.

At the time of his death, he was survived by his wife, Barbara Graham Smith; a son, Michael Paul Smith; a daughter, Valerie Smith; his parents, Paul and Madge Smith; a brother, Doug Smith; and a sister, Ann Fair.

In August 1993 a team returned to the site as part of the Joint Task Force for Full Accounting. The team investigated the site in Linh Thuong (Linh Thwongj) village, Gio Linh district, Quang Tri province. The Vietnamese advance team was unable to find any witnesses to the crash in 1966, but three people were found who saw wreckage in the vicinity after the crash. Two brothers and a friend said they found metal on a hillside when they were looking for wood to build a house in 1977. Because the investigation was inconclusive, the team recommended the case be placed in the pending category where it remains today.

From a Marine helicopter pilot who spotted the wreckage:

"I flew on a search mission trying to find a Bird Dog that went down after a midair with an H-34 out of Dong Ha immediately after it happened. I did not see the impact, but I remember seeing a puff of black smoke in the air after the impact. I did find the O-1. It was not easy to find or see. What led me to it were scrape marks on a tree, at the top of triple canopy. I was in a HUEY gunship and could not really hover at that altitude. However, we were able to see the wreckage at the bottom of the tree. I do not remember exactly what happened after we found it but I think there was some concern about dropping a smoke and causing a fire too close to the O-1. I believe I was asked if the wreckage looked survivable, by whom I do not know. I said, 'No.'"

Orlando Ingvoldstad, VMO-2

Although both aircraft went down, the UH-34D helicopter (from HMM-362) was able to autorotate to earth and its crew survived the crash.

Taken from the
Pop-A-Smoke site

A memorial from his daughter,
Valerie Smith Canepa
17 Sep 2001

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)