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Saturday, September 15, 2012
TFH 9/15: Major John Lucian Smith, USMC
John Lucian Smith was born on December 26, 1914 in Lexington, Oklahoma. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1936, and gave up a commission with the United States Army and instead became a Second Lieutenant with the United States Marine Corps. He received his Wings of Gold as a Naval Aviator in 1939.
In August 1942 with the beginning of the Guadalcanal Campaign, then Major Smith was commanding Marine Fighter Squadron 223 (VMF-223) - the first fighter unit to fly from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, beginning on August 20. From August 21-September 15, 1942, VMF-223's fighters shot down 83 Japanese aircraft - 16 of which were downed by Smith himself.
For his "conspicuous gallantry and heroic achievement in aerial combat" during that period, he was decorated with the Medal of Honor.
SMITH, JOHN LUCIAN
Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Marine Corps, Marine Fighter Squadron 223, Place and date: In the Solomon Islands area, August-September 1942. Entered service at: Oklahoma. Born: 26 December 1914, Lexington, Okla. Other Navy award: Legion of Merit. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and heroic achievement in aerial combat above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of Marine Fighting Squadron 223 during operations against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands area, August-September 1942. Repeatedly risking his life in aggressive and daring attacks, Maj. Smith led his squadron against a determined force, greatly superior in numbers, personally shooting down 16 Japanese planes between 21 August and 15 September 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 83 enemy aircraft destroyed in this period, mainly attributable to the thorough training under Maj. 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 Japan, but contributed to the security of our advance base. His loyal and courageous devotion to duty sustains and enhances the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
Smith served for the rest of World War II, and received the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" for his actions during the liberation of the Philippines in 1944-45. He also served our Nation in the Korean War, before retiring from the Marines with the rank of Colonel on September 1, 1960. He passed away on June 10, 1972 and rests in peace in Arlington National Cemetery.
The descendant of Smith's Guadalcanal Campaign squadron, today known as Marine Attack Squadron 223 (VMA-223), flies the McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II in defense of liberty as part of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing from their home base of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.