05.09.14

WWII Aviator And Vermont Native Bert Smith Finally Receives His Long-Delayed Service Medals

WASHINGTON (FRIDAY, May 9, 2014) -- A 90-year-old Vermont native now has his long-delayed medals from his service as an aviator in World War II.

Bert Smith, accompanied by family members, met with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Thursday in Leahy’s office in the U.S. Capitol for a quiet visit to receive the medals from Leahy, the Senate’s President Pro Tempore.  He was accompanied by his daughter Maureen Barnes and her husband Gary, of South Burlington and Florida, and their son Tyler Barnes, of South Burlington.

Mr. Smith was born in White River Junction, Vt., raised on the family farm in Hartford, and enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1943.  He served as a B-26 pilot and flight leader in the 450 Bombardment Squadron, 322 Bombardment Group, until 1945, participating in the Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes, and Central Europe Campaigns. 

After the war he served for another 10 years in the U.S. Air Force Reserves and as the liaison officer for the U.S. Air Force Academy.  He also worked for New England Telephone and served on the Hartford School Board.  He and his wife, Patricia, lived for several years in Morgan before relocating to Colchester and later to South Burlington.  He now lives in retirement most of the year in Florida, returning periodically to his native state of Vermont. 

Patricia Smith died on Christmas Day 2013.  She had urged her husband to request his medals in order to pass along his history to their children and grandchildren.

Leahy’s staff worked with the National Personnel Records Center and the U.S. Air Force to expedite verification and issuance of these awards, which were not presented at the time of Mr. Smith’s service.

Leahy also has arranged for Mr. Smith and his family to have a special tour of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Museum’s Military Aviation exhibit on Friday, with Curator for American Military Aviation Jeremy Kinney.  Museum staff now are preparing to renovate one of the B-26 exhibits.  Leahy, who is on the Smithsonian Institution’s governing board, said the museum staff are looking forward to hearing Bert Smith’s account of his experiences.

Leahy presented Bert Smith with the following awards for his service in WWII:

  • Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Air Medal with 3 Bronze and 1 Silver Oak Leaf Cluster (1 Silver = 5 Bronze)
  • Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII
  • American Campaign Medal
  • European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with 4 Bronze Service Stars)
  • World War II Victory Medal
  • Armed Forces Reserve Medal with Hourglass.

Following is the official citation presented to Mr. Smith:

Citation For Distinguished Flying Cross
General Orders No. 139, Headquarters Ninth Air Force, 23 July 1945

Herbert S. Smith, 1st Lieutenant, Air Corps, 322 Bombardment Group (M).  For extraordinary achievement in aerial flight.  On 22 February 1945, Lt. Smith, serving as pilot of a B-26 type aircraft, distinguished himself by outstanding courage and aerial skill.  After completing a highly successful bombing attack upon enemy transportation, he dived to deck level to strafe the target.  Despite the loss of an engine and additional damage by serve enemy fire, Lt Smith pressed his attack through to a successful completion.  The superb airmanship and steadfast devotion to duty displayed by Lt Smith on this occasion reflect great credit upon himself and his organization.   

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PHOTOS AVAILABLE:

Sen. Patrick Leahy presents long-delayed WWII aviator medals to Vermont native Bert Smith, as his family looks on.

http://www.leahy.senate.gov/imo/media/image/DSC_1949.JPG

Senator Patrick Leahy presents long-delayed Distinguished Flying Cross and other medals to WWII B-26 pilot and Vermont native Bert Smith.

http://www.leahy.senate.gov/imo/media/image/DSC_1946.JPG

[Source: Office of Senator Patrick Leahy]

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