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Major John L. Smith
U. S. Marine Corps, Commanding Officer VMF-223

John Lucian Smith was born on December 26, 1914 in Lexington, Oklahoma. He attended the University of Oklahoma class of 1936 and was a member of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). In May 1936, he appointed a second lieutenant in the U. S. Army Field Artillery, but resigned to to accept a commission in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) a second lieutenant in July 1936.

Smith was stationed at Marine Barracks, Navy Yard in Philadelphia, PA and attended  Marine Basic School. Afterwards, assigned to Quantico, VA, Washington, D.C., and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, SC. In July 1938 he was sent to NAS Pensacola  to begin flight training and graduated as a Naval Aviator.

Wartime History
During the Battle of Guadalcanal, Smith was Commanding Officer (C. O.) of Marine Fighter Squadron 223 (VMF-223) operating from Fighter 1 on Guadalcanal.

On October 2, 1942 took off piloting F4F-4 Wildcat 03502 from Fighter 1 on Guadalcanal leading his squadron on a mission to intercept incoming Japanese Zeros. Climbing to 25,000' then attacked Zeros but his aircraft was damaged. While circling to land, his engine died and he successfully landed to the east of Henderson Field and walked back to American lines.

Medal of HonorMedal of Honor Citation (awarded February 24, 1943 by U. S. President F. D. Roosevelt)
"For conspicuous gallantry and heroic achievement in aerial combat above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of Marine Fighting Squadron TWO TWENTY-THREE, during operations against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands Area, August – September, 1942. Repeatedly risking his life in aggressive and daring attacks, Major Smith led his squadron against a determined force, greatly superior in numbers, personally shooting down sixteen Japanese planes between August 21 and September 15, 1942. In spite of the limited combat experience of many of the pilots of this squadron, they achieved the notable record of a total of eighty-three enemy aircraft destroyed in this period, mainly attributable to the thorough training under Major Smith and to his intrepid and inspiring leadership. His bold tactics and indomitable fighting spirit and the valiant and zealous fortitude of the men of his command not only rendered the enemy's attacks ineffective and costly to them but contributed to the security of our advance base. His loyal and courageous devotion to duty sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

Smith passed away June 9, 1972. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery at section 3, lot 2503-H-2.

FindAGrave - John Lucian Smith (photos, grave photo)

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