Brothers In Arms
Military service in the Smith family is almost a rite of passage.
In addition to Ray, his younger brothers Frank, Jr. and Gail both served in World War II and his youngest brother Don served in Korea and Vietnam before retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marines.
Don “had been an enlisted man in the Marines while his fiancee went to nursing school at St. Vincent (Hospital),” Ray Smith remembered. Her three years of school matched his three year enlistment and the were married after.
Raymond explained that Don then enlisted in the Air Force and was commissioned as a First Lieutenant but transferred to the Marines after the Air Force froze commissions.
Gail Smith served late in the war and finished the war as a corporal in the medical corps while serving state-side.
But Frank and Ray developed a bond unique among World War II soldiers. They were afforded the unique opportunity to spend a significant amount of time together during their service in the Pacific Theater.
Frank, nicknamed “Boots,” was a Yeoman First Class in the Navy serving aboard the USS Mount McKinley, which was a flagship for Pacific island invasions, Smith explained.
At Leyte, they met for the first time.
“One day during a typhoon, low and behold the flap on our work tent opened up and there is my brother Frank. He had just come in to Leyte from the US.”
They were then able to spend weekends together on Frank’s ship.
“My brother was a Yeoman First Class,” Smith explained. “He was the officer’s Yeoman. He had a private office. He spent his time (in his) office (and) slept in his own office. He got another cot and when I would go out there (I) would sleep in his office (and) would fill up on Coca-Cola and ice cream, (a) commodity we had very little of.”
After the successful invasion of Luzon, in which Frank’s ship participated, Frank returned to Leyte, where Smith remained. They then picked up the same procedure as before.
That continued until the Allies invaded Okinawa.
“Then I didn’t see him anymore over there until they (the Allies) had signed the treaty with the Japanese,” said Smith.
They met again in Japan.
“I knew he was coming into Japan,” Smith said. “We were notified about all ships that were dockside. I was notified (and) went down to meet the ship. I only saw him once in Yokohama but the second time that his ship came, I knew it was going to come in. Up on the front of the ship, four to five guys were looking at dock areas. (I) recognized two or three of them.”
He then said, “‘Hey, you guys, where in the world is Boots.’ Everyone knew him as Boots.” They were then re-united again.
And while it wasn’t common for brothers to be able to spend time together like this, don’t think they took it for granted.
“Oh, that was one of the things, my youngest brother especially wants to make darn sure we know how fortunate and how lucky we were to be able to be (together) for long periods of time,” he said. “Believe me, how many people can say they were fortunate enough and lucky enough to have that happen?”