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1925 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
August 13, 1925 - January 19 , 2016 FALLS CHURCH, VA Four-Star General William Young Smith, USAF (Ret.), passed away on January 19 in Falls Church, Virginia. General Smith was the Commander of Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker Air Force Base in the early 1970s.The military career of General Smith, known in the Air Force as "Willy Y", took a seminal turn in February 1952, when North Korean flak penetrated his F-84 fighter jet on his 97th combat mission, destroying his right foot and ankle and setting the plane on fire. His voice so calm no one realized he was wounded, he radioed that he was heading to the North Korean mudflats where he made a flawless wheels-up landing. His friends circled overhead until he was picked up by helicopter in an operation that he himself had saved from being cut just a few weeks earlier. His fighter pilot days over, Smith began a storied non-flying career in the Air Force, serving at the highest policy levels. As a major, he became the first military person to serve simultaneously on the staffs of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon and of the National Security Council at the White House. As a result of his work in that dual capacity during the Cuban Missile Crisis, he was asked to join the staff for the negotiations that led to the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the USSR in 1963. Smith eventually rose to four-star rank, serving as Chief of Staff of SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe), and as Deputy Commander in Chief of the US European Command. Upon retirement, he was selected a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and subsequently served for five years as President of the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), a federally funded research center. Once in full retirement, he became President of the Air Force Historical Foundation and a board member of the National Security Archives. He also participated in a number of oral history projects on nuclear deterrence and arms control, and co-authored a book on the Cuban Missile Crisis, "Operation Anadyr", with General Anatoli I. Gribkov the former Chief of Staff of the Warsaw Pact Armed Forces.General Smith was born in Hot Springs, graduating from Hot Springs High School and from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1948. He earned an MPA and PhD from Harvard University, and taught for four years in the Social Science Department at West Point. In 1957 he married Maria Petschek, who had been a fellow graduate student at Harvard. He is survived by his wife, their three sons, Raymond, Mark and Derek and their families including nine grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister Bettie Mildred Pierce of Pine Bluff. He was the brother of the late Ray S. Smith, Jr., former Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives, and the sister-in-law of Patricia Smith (nee Floyd), of Fairview and Enid. He is the son of the late Ray S. Smith and Elizabeth Smith of Hot Springs.General Smith's decorations included the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with four clusters, the Legion of Merit, the Purple Heart and five distinguished service awards.
Published in The Oklahoman on Jan. 21, 2016
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