Smith, Curtis Elijah

Last Name:   
Smith
Picture

First Name: 
Curtis Elijah
Nickname:  
Curt
Born/Died  
July 27, 1908 to Aug 26, 1958
Hometown:
Augusta, GA
Squadron:
3rd Squadron, "Hell's Angels"
Position: 
Wing Man
Victories
 
Decorations:
Silver Star, Bronze Star, Distinguished Flying Cross (1996)
Pre AVG:
Curtis Elijah Smith attended Richmond Academy, and the University of Georgia.  He enlisted in the U.S. Army Aircorps in 1929, learned to fly at Brooks and Kelly Fields in Texas, and served as a second lieutenant for 16 months, until Congress reduced the number of pilots to 250.  He joined the Marine Corps as a private, and served for 2 years, rising to sergeant, then rejoined the Army Air Corps as a private in 1933, and flew the mail mail from Florence, SC to Washington D.C. for $30 per month.  In 1935 he was commissioned first lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve, serving as company commander in the Augusta unit, the 19th Infantry Battalion, until it was mobilized in 1940 due to the war in Europe.  During this time, he was also actively involved with his father and brother in the Interstate Coffee Company, the family business on Twiggs Street in Augusta.  Back on active duty, he underwent intensive training in 1940, as Marine junior staff officer school in Quantico, VA and at flight school in Pensacola, FL, where he stayed on as a flight instructor.
AVG Service:

In August 1941 with the rank of Captain, he was separated from the Marine Corps so that he could go to Burma and serve as a "civilian" with the American Volunteer Group (later known as the Flying Tigers) fighting for the Chinese against the Japanese.  As one of the oldest volunteers (he was 33) he was put in charge of CAMCO Group Seven on board the M.S. Boschfontein sailing from San Francisco to Rangoon, Burma on September 8, 1941.  The Augusta newspapers followed his progress with great interest.  Curtis Smith was assigned to the 3rd Squadron and flew in combat on December 23, 1941 over Rangoon.  Smith joined Chennault's staff and became the Group Adjutant until the Flying Tigers were officially disbanded on July 4, 1942.

Post AVG, WWII:
After the AVG was disbanded, Curt had to make (and pay for) his own way back to Georgia, flying to India, taking a ship to the east coast, and arriving by train in Augusta on Wednesday, 9th September 1942, where he received a hero's welcome, and created a major stir in his Chinese officer's uniform.  Marine recruits in Augusta were formed in the "Tiger Platoon" in his honor.  The Marines quickly re-commissioned him as a major, and he resumed his position of flight training officer in Pensacola, until September 1943, when we was promoted to lieutenant colonel and sent to England for four months as an air observer with the Royal Air Force.  Traveling light and wearing British battle dress, he successfully graduated from the RAF Empire Central Flying School course No. 6 on the 22nd December 1943.  During his stay, he met an Irish girl, Cicily Patricia Hayes (Pat) a WRAF driver.  After a whirlwind romance, they married, and she returned to Pensacola with him.  In October 1944, he was sent to the Pacific, as operations officer of a Marine fighter group (Air Group 14).  Curt participated in the Philippine and Okinawa campaigns in 1944 and 1945, and was awarded the Air Medal, the Bronze Star and the Silver Star.
Post War Career:
When the war ended, he and Pat set up their home in Augusta, and had four children.  He and his brother, Bates took over the Interstate Coffee Company from their father.  Curt remained in the Marine reserves, serving as executive officer, and later (1955) as commanding officer of the Augusta volunteer training unit.  At some time in the 1950s, Curt spent two and a half weeks training in the atomic proving grounds in Las Vegas, NV.  In September 1957, he resigned from the Interstate Coffee Company because of a mysterious illness, and the family moved to Tralee, Ireland in 1958, where they bought a large house and some acres of land in Ballyard, just south of the town.  His condition worsened and he died in August 1958.  He is buried in Rathass graveyard in Tralee.
-Contributed by Brenawn O'Connell, Son-in-Law, Tralee, Ireland

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