Captain Bud Smith (Click for larger
not often we get an opportunity to recognize the suffering and pain of those who
stayed behind during WWII. Ned Smith was editor and columnist of the small daily
newspaper, The Fairmont Times, in Fairmont, West Virginia. He wrote a folksy,
unpretentious column that spoke of local events and local people. He always started
the column with "Good Morning." His only son, Captain Bud Smith was
in Germany "his Division had rumbled out Of Holland over the plains to the
Rhine" when he was killed on March 5, 1945. By the time Ned Smith got the
fateful news and was able to write about it, it was March 21, 1945. These are
the poignant, brave words of a father about his lost son in a time that men were
not supposed to show their emotions.
Herschel H. (Betty) Rose. Mrs. Rose is Captain Bud Smith's sister and sent this
column written by her father about the loss of his son, her brother. Bud.
Reprint from the Fairmont, West Virginia Times
Morning March 25, 1945
out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the gate:
"To every man
upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples
of his Gods,
And for the tender mother
Who dandled him to rest,
for the wife who nurses
His baby at her breast
And for the holy maidens
Who feed the eternal flame,
To save them from false Sextus
the deed of shame?"
the Lays of Ancient Rome.
Andy Edmiston, of Weston,
dropped in, and in the course of talking things over, it turns out that we have
a mutual friend, who is an officer of high rank in the Adjutant General's Office,
in Washington. We decided that through this friend we eventually can get the story
of Bud's last flaming hour of battle.
Of course It may
turn out differently; that Is, death comes in so many hideous ways, but Andy thinks
as we do, (he having been a soldier in the other war,) that Bud died as he had
lived, having gone into his last battle with high courage and an utter disregard
of himself, as be did most everything else. Anyway, we do know that in reaching
the Rhine, he had done the thing he had most wanted to do. In the years he was
in the Army his concern was not that he would get into battle but that, through
some quirk of circumstance, he would not be able to reach the firing line.
talking to us he would compare the years he spent, in the Army training camps
to his football days at the University when he watched most of the games from
the bench. It was not until he took his first army examinations that it was disclosed
that his lack of speed on the football field was caused by broken arches and a
had ankle, souvenirs, doubtless, of his high school athletics.
intensity with which he set about to correct his arches and repair his ankle so
that he wouldn't be rejected by the army, was the first time we can recall that
he recognized that life itself held problems which cannot be resolved by a smile
and a pat on the back.
The last time we had a talk with
him, which was last September, In Georgia, he told us that It wouldn't be long
before his Division would be in battle and that he had a feeling he would be shot.
He said it as casually as if he had spoken of going on a picnic and expecting
it to rain.
But we pressed him for a reason, knowing that
he never had a premonition, and he told us that what he had learned from old soldiers
made him feel that he didn't have sense enough to keep himself concealed while
under fire. He was so much concerned for the safety and welfare of the 245 boys
under his command that, in spite of everything, he would expose himself, he said.
We knew what he was talking about, because, having watched him play basketball
and football we had the impression that he had little or so sense of self.
all his life Bud never leaned on anybody. He had an amazing faculty for picking
his own way through the currents of life. From the time he was big enough to walk
he walked his own way. In the old days, it was a sort of game with the neighbors
on Quincy street to keep track Of him. When he took a fancy to leave the old house
and go down to the railroad tracks to watch the trains pass, it usually was Mrs.
Glenn Arnett who would report him heading towards Washington street. In those
days he could be recognized from a considerable distance because the back flap
of his overalls was never fastened and his diddies bagged down to his knees.
seemed to have been born with an innate sense of right and wrong. On1y once, as
we recall did he rebel against the rigid rules of society and look to iconoclasm
as an escape from the restrictions imposed upon him by his elders. That was one
day when he was five or six years old. He came home with his cap and pockets bulging
with odds and ends he had purloined from the counters of the Five and Ten. Later
we marched him down to the store and had him tell the manager he would never do
anything like that again. Then we took him over and showed him the County Jail
and explained to him what happened to people who took things that didn't belong
to them. He stood with us in the alley and looked at the building from the top
to the bottom.
"Dad," said he, "I ll bet
you one thing. I'll bet you that ain't the biggest Jail there is in the whole
A few years later when he and Ned Watson decided
to hitch-hike to California without mentioning the matter to their parents, the
first thing he said when the Watsons located them In Parkersburg and hustled them
home, was that they couldn't make very good time between pick-ups because Ned's
feet would give out. He didn't think there was any harm in it, or that there would
be any particular obstacles to a trip to California with seventy-five cents in
his pocket. He ad a growing world sense and to him distance always lent enchantment.
there is the story Clinton Spurr tells of Bud's first year in the University.
Dr. Boucher was president then and one day in the Spring of the year he and Mr.
Spurr were chatting on the campus. Bud came along and Dr. Boucher hailed him.
After exchanging greetings and shaking hands (Bud had a good deal of his great
grandfather, Fontaine Smith in him), Dr. Boucher said, Bud, I have been
looking at your grades. They are not as good as they were in the First Semester.
How do you account for that? "Too much Joe College," he replied, beating
a hasty retreat.
When he became old enough to know his
grandfather, General Clarence L. Smith who served in the Spanish-American war,
and to become an intimate of this Uncle Earl, a Major in the other war, he became
deeply interested in military matters. Many a night we would come home late to
find his light burning. He would be pouring over the Photographic History of the
Civil War, and he had begrimed many a page of it before we were able to teach
him that it was the Civil War and not the Silver War which held his interest.
his last few years, along with his soldier life, he became interested in public
affairs, and he seemed to have developed an independent approach to certain political
points of view which have been pretty well resolved in his family for several
generations. But doubtless he was born with a flair for public life, for in his
second year at the University he ran for president of the student body on the
Abraham Lincoin Ticket, the platform of which seems to have been to give wider
recognition to the non-fraternity groups on the campus. Being an enthusiastic
and fervent fraternity man himself we thought his consistency was admirable.
could never quite tell what Bud would do,, Once, on Derby Day at Louisville, Carman
D'Agostino handed him sixty dollars to bet, win, place and show on a horse: Bud
put it all on the nose and the horse romped home. He didn't see Carman after placing
the bet, but after the race when he brought him a hatful of money, he made a brief
explanation that he had studied the odds board and decided that $80 to win would
be a lot better than the way Carman had figured it out. "But," said
we, leading him to one side, "what if the horse had come in second or third?
How would you explain it to Mr. D'Agostino?" "0, Dad," he said,
"that horse was a born winner."
We know very
little of his 1ast few months of life. His division sailed to England with the
usual secrecy of such matters. He called us from New York just before he sailed
and said he was there on an overnight pass with some guys for a final fling. He
seemed supremely happy that his chance had come, and he said he had called Helen,
his wife, and had told her to bring the baby up to keep us company while
he was gone. From then on the tidings from him were meagre.
never did write very much to us because he always took us for
was man to man stuff with the two of us; letters, he seemed to feel, were for
the needs of his mother and the other women of the family. It was only when he
felt somebody might be pushing us around or something had happened in his war
he felt would be of special interest to us, that he took time to write. He never
neglected, in any of his letters, to speak of the quality of food he was receiving.
That was a little-boy habit that clung to him. Just before he was killed a scrawl
came In which he reported that in his battalion he had become known as the flap-jack
He would mention only casually the severe Winter
In Europe and of the difficulty of keeping warm In the slit trenches. He seemed
to be intensely proud of the Army and everything in it and he never questioned
its ability to overpower the foe. Only once did he mention the impending battle,
and that was for us to know of his abiding love for Helen and the baby. "Love
you with an everlasting love," we thought, thinking of a line in the Bible.
When the news came that his Division had rumbled out Of Holland over the plains
to the Rhine, through Venlo and up to Rhinebeck, we are quite sure that his Mother
and his sister, Caroline knew he was about to travel his, last mile. We did not
share their fears because once, In a dream, we saw him triumphant, In Berlin,
receiving homage from a stricken foe.
After a day or so
the shock of his death seemed to wear off. Gazelle Vengen had reminded us that
we had been "actng as If Bud were ours alone." "He seems to have
belonged to a lot more people than just you," she said, simply.
messages of sympathy which have come in such numbers have been very tender and
The pent up anguish of a great nation at war
spills over into the mail-boxes and the teletypes and it whispers over the telephones
of the people.
We have found, In those which have made
their way to us, that there is a great reaching out for God. . . In my Father's
house there are many mansions . . . I look into the hills from whence cometh my
help. . . Yea though I walk through the valley and the shadow.
Wednesday, almost coincident with the telegram from the War Department, a pink
dogwood was delivered to our house on the hill. On Thursday when Mr. McCartney
came up to rake the leaves from the front yard, he picked out a spot on the side
of the bill to plant It. Having no strength in his right arm, which he broke In
a fair last November, he took Sgt. Harvey Staggers with him to dig the hole. Bud's
mother went with them. We stood at a window and watched them, and wondered where
it was in the Bible that it was written about Alpha and Omega, the beginning and
Life, we were reminded, must go on.