39th Bomb Group (VH)




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1st Lt Charles A. Smith
Radar Observer

Charles A. Smith 1945

Charles A. Smith was born in Chicago on March 25, 1925 and moved to Pontiac at an early age. He attended public schools there, graduating from high school in 1943.

He received basic training at Shepherd AFB, Texas during June and July 1943. Upon completion he entered the Cadet program at the University of Missouri. Further training followed during 1944 at gunnery school - Laredo, Texas and Air Corps Navigational School, San Marcos, Texas. In August 1944, he was commissioned as Second Lieutenant. After graduation from Airborne Radar Operator course at Boca Raton, Florida, he served briefly with the 16th Bombardment Group at Fairmount, Nebraska. He joined 39th Bomb Group at Salina, Kansas.

In July 24th daylight raid on the Nakajima Aircraft Plant at Handa, Smith recalls that there was a solid undercast, so this necessitated a radar run-direct synchronous. Post-strike revealed that 95% of the formation's bombs that had been toggled on Crew 44, the lead plane, had landed on the target. The aiming point was demolished.

Lloyd Volkmar also recalls the important role that by Smith, in removing "Matt" Matthaus from the tail compartment when he was mortally wounded over Tokyo on the May 26th incendiary raid.

Smith completed his wartime service with the rank of First Lieutenant. At that time he decided to make the Air Force a career with the ultimate goal of becoming a pilot.

During his 30 years in the military, "Chuck" attended many schools. In September 1945, he returned from the Pacific, and was assigned at Boca Raton, Florida to supervise a radar-training course. During 1946, he trained recruits at Lackland Army Air Base, Texas, while awaiting entry into the pilot training program.

In July 1948, Smith received his pilot's rating upon completion of training at Rudolph Field, Texas, and Barksdale Field, Louisiana. He then reported to Langley Field, Virginia as a pilot in the 363rd Tactical Reconnaissance Group, Tactical Air Command.

On April 9, 1949, Charles Smith was married to Shirley Elizabeth Brown. They have one daughter Amy Kilmon, who was born in 1957.

Smith was sent to the University of Michigan in June 1949 where he was a student in physics under the Air Force Institute of Technology (ATIT) civilian institution program. Following the outbreak of the Korean War, he was transferred in August 1950, to the resident school of AFIT at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, for a special electronics course. In August 1951, he received his diploma in electrical engineering.

His next assignment was the Air Proving Ground Command at Eglin AFB, Florida, where he served initially as a test pilot in the Light Bombardment Test Squadron. This was followed by duties as a project officer and Chief of the Radar Branch of the Operational Suitability Test Divison.

In July 1953, "Chuck" was assigned as Communications and Electronics Officer of the 931st Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron of the Northeast Air Command near Thule, Greenland.

He was sent to Rome Air Development Center, Griffith AFB, New York, in July 1954 where he served for nearly four years. Starting as a project engineer in the Intelligence Laboratory, he advanced to Chief of the Radar Processing Section of the laboratory.

Smith returned to the University of Michigan, in June 1958 as an AFIT-sponsored graduate student. He received his degree of Master of Science in Electrical Engineering in January 1960.

He then moved over to Wright-Patterson AFB for duty with the Air Technical Intelligence Center, an Air Force Headquarters unit that was later re-designated as the Foreign Technology Division (FTD) of Air Force Systems Command. His assignment included positions as an analyst in the Radar Branch and the Guidance and Control Branch of the Electronics Division, Chief of the Communications and Space Electronics Division, and Chief of the Space Technology Directorate. In the years 1960-1962, while stationed at Wright-Patterson, Smith attended the Ohio State University Graduate School on a part-time basis.

Crew 44 Main Page
62nd Squadron Crew Index
Source:Lloyd B. Volkmar, Crew 44 Historian for the book
"History of the 39th Bomb Group" by Robert Laird (crew 5) and David C. Smith crew 31); Photo courtesy of Charles A. Smith, Radar