|Pilot 2nd Lt. Harry B. Smith, O-708769 (MIA / KIA) El Dorado, AR
MIA April 13, 1945 at 11:45am
Harry Blake Smith was born on March 1, 1925 in Eldorado, Arkansas. By 1930, his family was in Cincinnati, OH then moved to Joinerville, Texas in the late 1930’s. By 1940, the family lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Harry graduated from Baton Rouge High School in 1942. He attended Louisiana State University (LSU) for a year and studied engineering. On February 25, 1943 he enlisted in the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF). SAACC April 1943; Bonham, Texas in June 1943; Garden City, Kansas in August 1943; Perrin Field, Texas in October 1943 and Eagle Pass during December 1943 until February 8, 1944. Assigned to the 347th Fighter Group, 67th Fighter Squadron flying the P-38 Lightning. He arrived at Port Moresby in the middle of September 1944 then was assigned to the Far East Air Forces Combat Training & Replacement Center (FEAF-CRTC) at the Nadzab No. 4 Airfield. On December 19, 1944 he moved to Middleburg Airfield. On March 21, 1945 the squadron moved to Puerto Princesa Airfield where he was stationed until he went Missing In Action (MIA) on his 51st combat mission April 13, 1945.
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Constructors number 422-5523. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38L-1 Lightning serial number 44-24519. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 347th Fighter Group,
67th Fighter Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. When lost, engine and weapon serial numbers unknown.
On April 13, 1945 took off from Puerto Princesa Airfield on Palawan Island at 8:31am piloted by 2nd Lt. Harry B. Smith as one of ten P-38s on a mission to strafe and bomb targets at Tarakan and Sandakan on Borneo. After take off, one P-38s aborted the mission.
At 10:30am, the nine remaining P-38s arrived over Tarakan Island at minimum altitude and conducted bombing and strafing of enemy positions claiming two bomb hits on a radar and machine gun positions and a single hit on a personnel and supply area at the southern tip of the island. Two other bomb hits were 1,000' northwest of the target area and one bomb hit 1,000' southeast of the target area. Two bombs were reported as duds and one bomb was jettisoned over the sea. The results of the skip bombing attacks from minimum altitude were unobserved and strafing runs were also made.
At 11:30am, the formation arrived over Sandakan on Borneo and strafed an area approximately two miles southeast of Sandakan
Airfield runway no. 2 and the road leading towards Sandakan two military trucks were strafed and destroyed. On the road approximately 1 and 3/4 miles from the runway three military cars were strafed with one damaged. During this strafing runs at 11:45am, this P-38 struck a tree that tore off the left wing causing to do three snap rolls before crashing into the ground and exploding on impact.
On October 18, 1946, a team from
American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) led by 1st Lt. Irving R. Wendt visited Sandakan and located the wreckage of this P-38 that crashed six miles northwest of the town on the Labuk Road while strafing Japanese trucks sometime in 1945. The team interviewed former Australian Prisoners Of War (POW) working in the vicinity and local people who reported the Japanese had recovered the pilot's body from the crash site and cremated his remains.
Wreckage from the crash was paraded in town then dumped. After three days of searching the overgrown dump area, the team located a propeller blade with P-38 with 100206 and 101796 T RT at the base, plus other numbers. Also a 20mm M1 cannon serial number 38757 manufactured by C. F. C. Co. inspected in 1943.
American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) Report of Activities 18 Oct. 1946 by 1st Lt. Irving R. Wendt:
“The Japs keeping everyone away, recovered the body of the pilot (Killed in the crash) and sent it to a Jap hospital where it was dismembered and cremated. The remains have never been found. There were two witnesses to this but both were later killed. Parts of the plane were paraded through town to show the people the plane they shot down. The motors were taken to a Jap dump 7 miles from town.”
Smith was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. He also has a memorial marker at Arlington National Cemetery at section MJ, grave 97.
Charles F. Smith, Jr. (brother)
"My brother's P-38 crashed on Borneo on April 13, 1945 in enemy held territory 1 3/4 mile south of runway #2 of the Sandakan Airdrome. Fellow pilots confirmed that he would have died in the crash/explosion, a designation agreed with by the military and a subsequent KIA notification. A Report of Activities of the American Graves Registration Service was carried out 18 months later with information that the remains were taken to a Japanese hospital (the notorious prison camp was just a few miles away from the crash site) where they were decapitated, burned, and thrown into the sea. However, we have found no indication that the actual crash site was ever investigated. Apparently parts of the plane were paraded in the town as evidence it was shot down, but the cause of the crash was low strafing with the left wing of the plane being clipped off by a tall dead tree which caused three snap rolls to the left, crashing and then exploding. The Report of Activities did examine a Japanese dump where plane parts were found. The serial number of Harry B. Smith's P-38 was finally revealed in the 67th FS Weekly Status and Operations Report of April 11-20, 1945. P-38L-1 44-24519. This was sent to us in 2014 by the Air Force Historical Studies Office (AFHSO) at Joint Base Anacostia-Bowling in Washington, DC."
Jeffrey Blake Smith (nephew)
"After 15+ years of searching I finally found the plane serial number that he was flying. It wasn't listed on his MACR which was filled out at the end of the war. The Air Force Historical Studies office in DC found a weekly report that listed listed Harry's planes serial number."
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records -
Harry B. Smith
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF)
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-38L-1-LO Lightning 44-24519
Status and Operations Report (Form 34) Weekly Operations 11 April – 20 April 1945. 67th FS, 347th FG
67th Fighter Squadron Field Order #120 - Final Mission Report 13 April 1945. 67th FS, 347th FG, 13th AF
"Losses: 2nd Lt. Harry B. Smith, O-708769 was KIA while making a north-west to southeast strafing pass on 3 military cars approximately 1 and 3/4's miles south of Sandakan R/W No. 2. While strafing, his plane struck a tree tearing off his left wing doing 3 snap roles to the left and exploding as he crashed. The accident occurred at 1145I. There was no A/A or small arms fire seen and it is believed that due to low strafing the accident occurred."
Missing Air Crew Report 16480 (MACR 16480) does not list the serial number of this aircraft
Report of Activities, American Graves Registration dated 18 Oct. 1946 by 1st Lt. Irving R. Wendt
67th FS Weekly Status and Operations Report of April 11-20, 1945 note this aircraft as P-38L-1 44-24519
American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) Report of Activities 18 Oct. 1946 by 1st Lt. Irving R. Wendt
American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) "Case History For Remains Considered Non-Recoverable Smith, Harry B. 2nd Lt. O-708769" September 22, 1949
"Basis For Declaring Remains Non-Recoverable
1. According to available information, 2nd Lt. Harry B. Smith, O-708769, was killed aboard a P-38 type aircraft, serial no. unknown, which hit the top of a lone dead tree and crashed while on a strafing mission over Sandakan, British North Borneo, on 13 April 1945.
2. Investigation of the case reveals that the body of Lt. Smith was recovered by the Japanese, which they have dismembered, cremated, and thrown into the sea.
3. No record of burial is on file for the subject officer.
4. Finds and recommendations are based on all presently available information.
5. It is recommended that the remains of 2nd Lt. Harry B. Smith O-708769, be considered non-recoverable and that all records pertaining to search and recovery of his remains be closed."
News "Lt. H. B. Smith dies over Borneo" April 1945
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harry B. Smith
FindAGrave - 2Lt Harry Blake Smith (tablets of the missing, photo)
FindAGrave - 2LT Harry Blake Smith (memorial marker photo)
Facebook - Harry B. Smith (photos)
Fold3 - Harry Blake Smith (photos)
Thanks to Charles Smith and Jeffrey Blake Smith for additional information.
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September 25, 2018