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N.C. man's remains buried after 57 years (missing WW2 soldier)
Durham Herald-Sun (Durham, NC) ^ | January 8, 2003 | The Associated Press

Posted on 01/09/2003 5:44:00 AM PST by Constitution Day



N.C. man's remains buried after 57 years

The Associated Press
January 8, 2003   8:01 pm

DENTON, N.C. -- For 57 years, the gravestone of Lt. Fred Smith sat over an empty grave. His remains were finally lowered into the ground with full military honors Wednesday.

"This is really a thanksgiving day," said Smith's widow, 84-year-old Dee MacDonald of Rutherfordton. "We are thankful to finally know what happened to him and we are thankful to finally have him home."

On Sept. 7, 1945, five days after the Japanese formally surrendered to end World War II, Smith and seven other men took off from a New Guinea airstrip in a B-25 Mitchell bound for the Philippines. They never made it.

The U.S. Army Air Corps assumed that the twin-engine bomber was lost at sea, and Smith was officially declared dead Feb. 13, 1946, on what would have been his 30th birthday.

That was the last Smith's family had heard about him until two years ago, when his little sister got a message on her answering machine from Pentagon officials.

"They said they found Fred," said Jettie Smith, 84, of Handy. "It was a shock."

In 1995, a helicopter from an Indonesian mining company was surveying a remote mountain in New Guinea, where the rugged volcanic peaks rise as high as 16,000 feet. The pilot spotted the tail of a plane in the jungle, a white star and number on its fuselage.

The U.S. Defense Department's Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office was notified about the wreckage and a recovery team was sent to the site in February 1999. The bodies of all eight crewmen were recovered, along with such personal effects as clothing, dog tags and wedding bands. It's still not known what caused the plane to crash.

After the families were notified, blood samples were collected from living relatives to make positive identifications using DNA.

Smith's body was returned to his family Monday.

About 100 people packed the tiny sanctuary at Lineberry United Methodist Church on Wednesday.

Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division carried the flag-draped coffin to a neighboring cemetery. There, they folded the flag and presented it to Jettie Smith. An honor guard fired a 21-gun salute and a bugler played taps.

A 1933 graduate of Denton High School, Fred Smith earned a degree in vocational agriculture from N.C. State University in 1938. He taught for three years at Courtney High School in Yadkinville and for two years at Guilford High School near Greensboro.

Former students remembered Smith as a strict teacher who knew how to be fair.

"We all looked up to him," said Francis Essic, 77. "He was a good man."

Jettie Smith said she was grateful to finally have a funeral for her brother.

"It gives us closure," she said. "For years we wondered where he was and tried to hold out hope. We figured he was dead, but without a body we didn't know for sure. I thank God I've lived to see this day."

URL for this article: http://www.heraldsun.com/state/6-307194.html


© Copyright 2003. All rights reserved. All material on heraldsun.com is copyrighted by The Durham Herald Company and may not be reproduced or redistributed in any medium except as provided in the site's Terms of Use.



TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Government; Miscellaneous; US: North Carolina
KEYWORDS: northcarolina; oldnorthstate; unhelpful
Related story from 11/24/2002 Raleigh News and Observer: (all photos from N&O)

Brave quest for the fallen:
A team on a 13,000-foot peak in New Guinea looks for what may be remains of a North Carolina soldier lost in 1945


The B-25 crash site is at the center of the yellow circle; above and to the left is the helicopter landing pad where the recovery team pitched tents.
Photo by Greg Probst, Courtesy of Freeport-Mcmoran Copper & Gold


Lt. Fred Smith, U.S. Army Air Corps


The grave of Lt. Fred Lewis Smith in Denton is visited by his sisters, Annie Lee Allen, left, and Jettie Smith, who hope to hear from the recovery team.
Staff Photo by John Rottet


Sgt. 1st Class Sean Bendele holds leather gloves found in wreckage, preserved by the perpetual cold.
Courtesy of U.S. Army Central Identification Lab


1 posted on 01/09/2003 5:44:00 AM PST by Constitution Day
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To: *Old_North_State; **North_Carolina; mykdsmom; Lee'sGhost; KOZ.; borntodiefree; azhenfud; ...
Here's a break from the "all-John-Edwards, all-the-time" fare we've been seeing lately.

Although our country is gearing up for a new war on the other side of the globe, it's important to remember these heroes - both the fallen and the survivors - and the sacrifices they made.

I think of them every day.
This is because I proudly display in my home the medals, photo and dogtag of my grandfather, SSGT Moses Baker, U.S. Army Air Corps, 1942-1946.

Respectfully,
CD

2 posted on 01/09/2003 5:51:00 AM PST by Constitution Day
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To: Constitution Day
Excellent post.

Thanks

3 posted on 01/09/2003 5:52:08 AM PST by G.Mason
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To: Constitution Day
Great post, as always, CD.

Thanks.


Tony

4 posted on 01/09/2003 5:57:13 AM PST by TonyInOhio
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To: Constitution Day
They were giants. My father also was in the Air Corps. Tail gunner on a B-24. I got to tour the one they rebuilt and flew into RDU about nine years ago. I couldn't believe how small they were by today's standards.
5 posted on 01/09/2003 5:57:40 AM PST by Lee'sGhost (Edwards sucks.)
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To: Constitution Day
Lots of good people in Denton.
6 posted on 01/09/2003 6:01:11 AM PST by Rebelbase
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To: Constitution Day
An honor guard fired a 21-gun salute and a bugler played taps.

Three rifle volleys, not a 21-gun salute.

7 posted on 01/09/2003 6:02:16 AM PST by SMEDLEYBUTLER
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To: SAMWolf
FYI.
8 posted on 01/09/2003 6:05:31 AM PST by Constitution Day
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To: G.Mason; TonyInOhio
You're welcome.
Thanks for checking it out.

CD

9 posted on 01/09/2003 6:06:43 AM PST by Constitution Day
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To: Constitution Day
Thanks for posting this. I didn't know that they had such high mountains there.
10 posted on 01/09/2003 6:13:02 AM PST by csvset
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To: Lee'sGhost
According to my mom, my grandpa never spoke much about the war when they were growing up, and I personally never heard him mention it until the day he gave me his uniform, etc.

I do know that he supervised the loading of bombs on aircraft, and was stationed in Tunisia, England and (maybe) Sicily.

11 posted on 01/09/2003 6:13:46 AM PST by Constitution Day (WYBMADIITY)
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To: Constitution Day
Thank you for posting this.
12 posted on 01/09/2003 6:21:40 AM PST by RGSpincich
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To: Rebelbase
Thanks.

BTTT.

13 posted on 01/09/2003 6:26:23 AM PST by Constitution Day
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To: csvset
I didn't either, and apparently there's gold in them thar hills!

(See caption of first photo: "Photo by Greg Probst, Courtesy of Freeport-Mcmoran Copper & Gold")

14 posted on 01/09/2003 6:27:43 AM PST by Constitution Day
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To: Constitution Day

Thank You.

15 posted on 01/09/2003 6:30:39 AM PST by Luke FReeman
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To: Lee'sGhost
Do you know which B-24? My grandfather was a navigator on a B-24, the Squirrely Shirley.
16 posted on 01/09/2003 6:32:28 AM PST by krb
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To: Constitution Day; souris; AntiJen; Victoria Delsoul; MistyCA; SpookBrat; SassyMom; bentfeather; ...
Thanks for the ping.!



Lt. Fred Smith

17 posted on 01/09/2003 6:32:46 AM PST by SAMWolf (To look into the eyes of the wolf is to see your soul)
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To: Constitution Day
Thanks for this article. I lost three uncles during WWII, one at Ploesti in '42, a second lost at sea during naval flight training, and the third in a B-29 crash. It's good to hear some brave soul's remains returned to his native soil.

A NC native bump...

18 posted on 01/09/2003 6:34:38 AM PST by Jonah Hex
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To: RGSpincich; Luke FReeman
You're welcome.

BTTT

19 posted on 01/09/2003 6:35:52 AM PST by Constitution Day
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To: Lee'sGhost
My father also was in the Air Corps. Tail gunner on a B-24.

My uncle was a bombadier on a B-26.

When we were little he told is he bailed out over France. HA! He was just spreading the BS.

Before he died, he told me the truth. The Germans always knew of their approach and concentrayed their flak accordingly.

The bombers couldn't break formation and had to go thru it. Scarey stuff.

20 posted on 01/09/2003 6:37:14 AM PST by johnny7
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To: Constitution Day; SLB; Lion Den Dan
Excellent post.
21 posted on 01/09/2003 6:42:41 AM PST by Fred Mertz
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To: Jonah Hex
So many untold stories of heroism from WW II.
22 posted on 01/09/2003 6:44:07 AM PST by Eric in the Ozarks
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Comment #23 Removed by Moderator

To: Constitution Day
Fabulous post, CD. Thank you.

There is one thing I don't get, though. If the helicopter was spotted in 1995, why did it take until 1999 to recover it? I'm just curious.

24 posted on 01/09/2003 6:56:53 AM PST by Slip18
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To: Slip18
There is one thing I don't get, though. If the helicopter was spotted in 1995, why did it take until 1999 to recover it? I'm just curious.

First of all the helicopter spotted IT (the bomber wreckage), not the other way around.

My guesses on the reasons for the delay are:

1) Suharto was still in power in 1995, and I think his successor, Megawati Sukarnoputri, took power in 1999 or thereabout.
The recovery of American bodies was probably very low on the dictator Suharto's "to-do" list.

2) The area is probably VERY remote.

25 posted on 01/09/2003 7:04:49 AM PST by Constitution Day
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To: krb
Can't remember the name, but it wasn't that one. It was billed as the only flying B-24 left, I believe. If you did a google search you could probably find something.
26 posted on 01/09/2003 7:07:18 AM PST by Lee'sGhost (Edwards sucks.)
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To: Constitution Day
Thanks, CD. Didn't know that.
27 posted on 01/09/2003 7:10:07 AM PST by Slip18
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To: Slip18
You're welcome.

I can't believe I remembered how to spell "Megawati Sukarnoputri".
I just love her name.

It trips off the tongue like India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Thanks for reading the thread.

28 posted on 01/09/2003 7:14:52 AM PST by Constitution Day
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To: Constitution Day
You've done well, CD. I would have spelled Megawati "megawatt." LOL!
29 posted on 01/09/2003 7:17:31 AM PST by Slip18 (i)
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To: Constitution Day
Leave no man behind...
30 posted on 01/09/2003 7:22:04 AM PST by VOA
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To: SMEDLEYBUTLER
Thanks for the correction, and for taking the time to read.

FRegards,
CD

31 posted on 01/09/2003 7:40:47 AM PST by Constitution Day
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To: Fred Mertz
Thanks for checking it out.

Off topic, but will you be at CPAC? I'm coming.

32 posted on 01/09/2003 7:42:18 AM PST by Constitution Day
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To: NFifty15
My dad flew C-46's over the Hump in the China-Burma-India Campaign, was involved in a crash and treated for burns at an Army hospital in Texas. He never received Veterans' status or benefits because he was a civilian pilot for the AAF. There were many "silent birdmen" in the war (too old, couldn't pass physical, etc) who wore the uniform but without rank insignia.
33 posted on 01/09/2003 7:42:33 AM PST by Eric in the Ozarks
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BTTT
34 posted on 01/09/2003 9:07:50 AM PST by Constitution Day
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To: Eric in the Ozarks
Your father was a very brave man. Only the BEST could do what he did. I know you are very proud of him. Have you made a website about him?
35 posted on 01/09/2003 9:48:44 AM PST by JudyB1938
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To: JudyB1938
I've thought about it. He was born in 1906 and was a little too old to 'step forward' like men who were 15 and 20 years younger. He was a civilian pilot for China National Airlines Company, then owned by American Airlines (it had various owners, including Pan American)and had lived in Shanghai in the 1930's. He went back to Asia as a Department of the Army Civilian in 1950, and I was raised as an Army brat in Japan.
One of the more unusual stories concerned his relationship with a Masonic Lodge he joined in Shanghai in the 1930's. The lodge was moved out of China to Tykyo in 1949 when the Communists took over the country. Dad rejoined the same lodge when he came to Japan almost 15 years later.
36 posted on 01/09/2003 10:11:20 AM PST by Eric in the Ozarks
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To: Constitution Day
my father in law was a navigator on squirrly Shirley....
i have 3 pictures of it tried to post but it did not work..
37 posted on 08/29/2004 3:56:36 AM PDT by ramonde (lets have a moment of silence for those we lost be thankful for those that came home)
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