Last Known Activity
Theodore R. Smith was born in Pennsylvania on November 5, 1925 as a son to Theodore and Elizabeth Smith. Both the US Censeses 1930 and 1940 show the family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
He was inducted into the military on January 17, 1944 at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. His NARA enlistment record states he had completed 4 years of high school, but gives no civilian employment.
He was trained as an aerial gunner, and in March, 1945, deployed to England where he was assigned to the combat crew of Lt. Barr as a waist gunner. (In time, crew manning was reduced to 8 from 10 as waist gunners were dropped from the crews.)
Smith flew three missions, two with the Barr crew as tail gun. He was a substitute on the Kahler crew for the mission of April 17, 19545. THe designated target was the marshalling yards at Dresden, Germany. Over the target, flak was intense and accurate.
The aircraft had to make three bomb runs before all ordnance was depleted. Just after this, a flak shell hit the aircraft's right wing, setting the gas tank on fire. Fire rapidly streamed throughout the aircraft as it skidded out of formation and exploded. Wreckage fell near Dresden.
All of the crew members managed to make successful parachute landings, although Smith and Kahler were captured by angry civilians. He and Lt Kahler were killed by these civilians, with their bodies supposedly strung up from a tree. The official German report states that Lt. Kahler died from severe wounds suffered in the explosion, and that Smith died when his parachute only partially opened. The two dead men were buried in a local cemetery.
After the war, Smith's body was retrieved by Allied forces and sent to the U.S. for burial. He lies in the Woodlawn National Cemetery in Elmira, New York in Plot G, Site 4869.
US Census 1930
US Census 1940
Sgt Theodore R. Smith was a substitute tail gunner on B-17G # 43-37597, nicknamed "Earthquake McGoon," assigned to the 427th Bomb Squadron.
Missing Air Crew Report 14169 covers this aircraft/crew loss. Mission loading lists show the crew as:
2 Lt Thomas F. Kahler p
2 Lt Lewis Cotton c-p
Sgt Richard Bowler nav
SSgt Richard T. Fogarty tog
SSgt Lloyd Lowery eng/tt gun
SSgt Leslie L. Litz r/o
SSgt William A. Broughton btg
Sgt Theodore R. Smith tail gun
No waist gunner assigned.
Bowler completed navigator training, but missed the final exam, so washed out. He went to gunnery school in Arizona and later to the Kahler crew as tail gunner. He was checked out by Squadron Navigation Officer, and assigned as navigator for this mission.
Ranks and grades as of mission date.
In the Barr crew photo, Smith is in the front row, at left.
Service photo source: