Iowa State Memorial Union

Chadwick Smith - 1st Lieutenant

Rank: 1st Lieutenant
Date Of Birth: : Jun 13, 1929
Date Of Death: Jun 15, 1953
War / Conflict: Korea
Hometown: Story City, Iowa
Gold Star Hall - Wall Location: Northwest Corner (by Entrance Door)
Service Ribbons Awarded:
  • Silver Star
  • Air Medal with V (for valor) (Somalia)
  • Purple Heart
  • Korean Service Medal


After learning from hometown Story City friends that Iowa State University was seeking information about Korean War veteran, Chadwick Boyd Smith, weekly phone conversations began between his stepsisters, Marilyn James Anderson of Fayetteville, AR and Elaine James McDonald of Dallas, TX. 

These phone calls turned into wonderful sessions of "remembering when". In a note, Marilyn said, “The past months brought back many memories – the joy Chad brought to family and friends and the great loss his mother felt. Being part of his short but remarkable life has been a blessing to all his family and friends.”

Chadwick Boyd Smith was born on June 13, 1929 in Minneapolis. In 1931 when he was two years old, his father, Chadwick senior, passed away very suddenly. His mother, Nettie, made the decision to move with Chad back to her hometown, Story City, Iowa.

In 1938 when Chad was nine years old, Nettie married Story City native Stanton James, a widower with daughters, Marilyn, age 17 and Elaine, almost 15. The family home was established at 424 Washington Street when Stanton and Nettie purchased an old, vacant, two-story house and renovated it for their family.

Marilyn and Elaine remembered things about growing up with Chad that made them smile. He was a serious Monopoly player and at age nine was always the winner when he played with his sisters. When arriving home from school, he would call "Has anyone came or called?" He enjoyed raising homing pigeons and Elaine remembers driving Chad a few miles away from town to release them. There were dogs to play with - Impy, a Golden Chow and later Pokey, a black Labrador retriever - and as he grew up, he liked doing outdoor things such as spending time in the Minnesota north woods. One summer he worked on the railroad, back then a good short term job.

Chad attended school in Story City, graduating from high school with honors in 1947. He went to Iowa State the next fall and spring, majoring in Engineering. Transferring, he finished his education at University of Iowa, graduating in mathematics in February 1951 where he was also in the R.O.T.C. program. He won high military honors and recognition for his leadership and aptitude for military service. He was one of three in his class to receive a commission in the Air Force.

While at the university, Chad met an international student from Poland. That young man expressed this tribute, “If I ever met a boy who could become a symbol of the best qualities of American youth, Chad was the man. I am and always will be proud that he called me his friend.”

Following college graduation, Chad took further training and received his wings as a 1st Lieutenant at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona on April 10, 1952.

Although Chad barely knew his father, he followed in his footsteps with his life long desire to fly. The elder Smith was Chief Pilot and Operations Manager for the fledgling Northwest Airlines when he and Nettie married in 1928. He brought the first tri-motor plane for Northwest Airlines from Detroit, was a member of the Caterpillar Club and flew with Charles Lindbergh from St. Louis to Chicago to open the Northwest line. His younger twin brothers both became Northwest pilots and his sister, Gladys, was a parachute jumper. Flying ran deep in the Smith family, and it’s no wonder young Chad got the bug early!

After completing flight training, Chad left for active duty in Korea on September 17, 1952. He was attached to the12th Fighter bomber squadron, 5th U.S. Air Force. On November 1, he wrote home to say, “They have very many pilots, so it may be several weeks before I fly and I doubt if I will get any missions for a month at least.”

This situation did not last very long. By June 1953, Chad had flown 54 combat missions.

Then a letter dated June 16, 1953 arrived in Story City from Chad’s commanding officer. It said, “On the afternoon of June 15, your son was briefed along with two other pilots to attack railway cars in North Korea. The flight of three F-86’s took off at 7:40pm. Upon reaching the target area, Chad called over his radio that he was going down to mark the target and for the two other pilots to make their dive bombing run as soon as they saw the target. Chad began his dive and as he did the two other pilots lost sight of him due to darkness. There was intense crossfire cause by small arms weapons in the area. Despite being struck by cannon fire, he scored direct hits on his target. The two other pilots attacked and in the process saw a large ball of fire on the ground. Upon coming off the target they called to Chad on their radios but received no answer, nor did they see a parachute. No reply came to repeated calls. Darkness and mechanical trouble necessitated the return of the other pilots to base.”

Reconnaissance the next morning yielded no information. Chad was listed as missing in action until the following year, when an official declaration was made. 

Chad’s flight mate wrote to Nettie and talked about her son. “I never in my life met a nicer boy than Chad. Everyone on the base knew him. He was always meeting people and everyone liked him, everyone was his friend. He never made a distinction between officers and the enlisted men who worked on the line. Chad and I used to get a kick out of teasing each other about the home town newspapers. We both live in small towns and we used to compare papers, seeing who had the most pictures on the front page. He was always the first to volunteer and tried as hard or harder than everyone else. The target we hit had extremely intense flak around it. We knew it before we went on it. Chad was leading. He never feared anything. Chad had more courage than anyone. He was truly a leader.”

Chad received the Silver Star, Air Medal, Purple Heart and the Accolade, Korean (campaign) medal.

A memorial stone for Chad is in the Story City cemetery and he is remembered at the University of Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City, on the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington DC, in the Punch Bowl Crater in Hawaii and now, at Iowa State. 

© 2024 Iowa State Memorial Union. All rights reserved.