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John Lucian Smith
John L. Smith, Flying ace, Medal of Honor recipient
Nickname "Meat Ball Smitty"[1]
Born (1914-12-26)December 26, 1914
Died June 10, 1972(1972-06-10) (aged 57)
Place of birth Lexington, Oklahoma
Place of death Encino, California
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch USMC logo United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1936-1960
Rank US-O6 insignia Colonel
Commands held VMF-223
Marine Aircraft Group 33
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War
Awards Medal of Honor
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star
Distinguished Service Order (UK)

John Lucian Smith (December 26, 1914 – June 10, 1972) is a Medal of Honor recipient and Marine Corps ace who, as Commanding Officer of VMF-223 shot down 19 Japanese planes in World War II and led his squadron to a destroy a total of 83 enemy aircraft during the Solomon Islands campaign.


John Lucian Smith was born on December 26, 1914 in Lexington, Oklahoma. He attended the University of Oklahoma where he was a member of the Reserve Officers Training Corps, graduating in May 1936. During the same month, he was appointed a second lieutenant in the Army Field Artillery, but resigned in July that year to accept a commission in the United States Marine Corps as a second lieutenant.

After receiving his Marine Corps commission, he was ordered to Marine Barracks, Navy Yard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he attended the Marine Basic School.

Following various duty assignments at Quantico, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, in 1937, he was transferred to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola in July 1938 to begin flight training. A year later he graduated and was designated a Naval Aviator.

During the crucial battle for the Solomons, he led Marine Fighter Squadron 223 (VMF-223) on sorties against the enemy, during which the squadron accounted for 83 enemy aircraft destroyed.

Aerial victory creditsEdit

Date Total Aircraft Types Claimed (location)
21 Aug 1942 1 1 A6M Zeke destroyed (Cactus)
26 Aug 1942 2 2 Betty bombers destroyed (Cactus)
29 Aug 1942 2 2 Betty bombers destroyed (Cactus)
30 Aug 1942 4 4 A6M Zekes destroyed (Cactus)
09 Sep 1942 1 1 A6M Zeke destroyed (Cactus)
10 Sep 1942 1 1 Betty bomber destroyed (Cactus)
11 Sep 1942 2 2 Betty bombers destroyed (Cactus)
12 Sep 1942 2 2 Betty bombers destroyed (Cactus)
13 Sep 1942 1 1 A6M Zeke destroyed (Cactus)
02 Oct 1942 1 1 A6M Zeke destroyed (Cactus)
03 Oct 1942 2 2 A6M Zekes destroyed (Cactus)

While on temporary duty in Washington after his return from the Pacific, he was awarded and presented the Medal of Honor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 24, 1943.

After several months' duty in Washington, he shipped overseas again that fall to serve as Executive Officer of Marine Aircraft Group 32, then located at Oahu, Hawaii. A few months later, he moved to the Philippines and took part in the aerial offensives in the Bismarck Archipelago in November and December 1944; moved up to Luzon in the Philippines in January and February 1945; then on to Mindoro and Mindanao, and finally up to the Sulu Archipelago.

For his services in the Philippines during the period November 1944 to June 1945, he was awarded the Legion of Merit for exceedingly meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service as Executive Officer for Marine Aircraft Group 32 in extensive support of ground and surface forces in the liberation of Luzon, Zamboanga Peninsula, the Sulu Archipelago, and Mindanao.

After his return to the United States in June 1945, he served at the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida, until December 1945, and then was transferred to Quantico, Virginia, to serve as station operations officer. After his duty there and after performing various duties at Cherry Point, North Carolina, Washington, and Havana, Cuba, in 1946 and 1947, he was detached from duty at the Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia, to perform duty involving flying on the staff of Commander, Air Force, Atlantic Fleet. In November 1948 he was on temporary aviation duty in England, France, and Germany.

Lieutenant Colonel Smith was detailed as Marine Corps Aide to the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department, Washington, in December 1949; promoted to colonel on January 1, 1951; and in May 1951, he joined the Staff, Standing Group, of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, for two years. Following duty with Marine Training Group 10, at the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California, he began a year's duty in Korea in July 1953. He served first as Commanding Officer, Marine Aircraft Group 33, until February 1954, then as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-4 of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.

Upon his return from Korea, Col Smith was assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps in August 1954, and entered the National War College, completing the course in June 1955. The following month he was assigned to Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, as a member of the Advanced Research Group, serving in this capacity until July 1956. That August he assumed his duties at Pensacola Naval Air Station as Liaison Officer on the Staff of the Chief of Naval Air Training.

Colonel Smith retired from the Marine Corps on September 1, 1960, after which he worked in the defense industry until his death on June 10, 1972 in Encino, California. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Awards and decorationsEdit

A complete list of Col Smith's medals and decorations includes: the Medal of Honor; the Legion of Merit with Combat "V;" the Distinguished Flying Cross; the Bronze Star with Combat "V;" the Air Medal with three Gold Stars, indicative of four awards; the Presidential Unit Citation; the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon with one bronze star; the American Defense Service Medal with Base clasp; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one silver star, indicative of five bronze stars; the American Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; the Navy Occupation Service Medal with European clasp; the National Defense Service Medal; Distinguished Service Order; the Korean Service Medal with one bronze star; the United Nations Service Medal; the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one bronze star; the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation; and the Korean Presidential Unit Citation.

Medal of Honor ribbon.svg 
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg
 Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon.svg
Bronze Star ribbon.svg
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Air Medal ribbon.svg
US Navy Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon.png
Gold star
Navy Unit Commendation ribbon.svg
Bronze star
American Defense Service ribbon.svg
American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg
Silver star
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg
Army of Occupation ribbon.svg National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg
Bronze star
Bronze star
Phliber rib.png
Presidential Unit Citation (Philippines).svg Presidential Unit Citation (Korea).svg United Nations Service Medal Korea.png
1st Row Medal of Honor Legion of Merit with Combat "V" Distinguished Flying Cross
2nd Row Bronze Star with Combat "V" Air Medal with three gold stars Presidential Unit Citation Navy Unit Commendation with one bronze star
3rd Row American Defense Service Medal with Base Clasp American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one silver star World War II Victory Medal
4th Row Navy Occupation Service Medal with “Europe” clasp National Defense Service Medal Korean Service Medal with one bronze star Distinguished Service Order
5th Row Philippine Liberation Medal with one bronze star Presidential Unit Citation (Philippines) Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation United Nations Service Medal

Medal of Honor citationEdit

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to


for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

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.

See alsoEdit


  1. Colonel John L. Smith profile on Medal of
PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.

External linksEdit

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