Dale Orville Smith was born March 7, 1911 in Reno, Washoe County, Nevada. He attended Reno schools and the University of Nevada for two years before his appointment to the U.S. Military Academy. Upon his graduation from West Point in 1934, Smith spent his summer aboard the battleship Wyoming on a midshipman cruise to Europe. He attended flying school at Randolph and Kelly Fields in Texas upon his return to the states.
Smith initially was interested in flying fighter aircraft, but because of his height (reportedly 6’7″), he was transitioned to bomber training. After flying school, he was assigned to Hamilton Field, California. The Air Corps was testing B-10 and B-12 bombers at Hamilton, but Smith was assigned to assist in the development of the bombing technique using the Norden bomb sight.
On October 13, 1935, he married Elise W. Ivy at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Their son, Kort Ivy Smith (b. Jan. 10, 1937 – d. Feb. 12, 1980), was nominated to the United States Military Academy in 1954. (Dale and Elise later divorced and he remarried).
In 1938 Smith began an assignment as an engineering officer and test pilot at Luke and Hickam Fields in Hawaii. Two years later in 1940, he left Hawaii for Langley Field, Virginia. He was assigned to the 2nd Bomb Group, where he flew the early Flying Fortresses. At the outset of WWII, Smith commanded the 20th Squadron of the 2nd Bomb Group. His squadron was placed under Navy control and assigned to hunt submarines. He held several different positions – group executive officer, group commander, and assistant chief of staff – with the Army Air Forces Anti-Submarine Command until the summer of 1943.
On November 23, 1943, Smith replaced Col. Julius K. Lacey as the third commander of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force. Lacey had taken command of the 384th only two months earlier as a temporary replacement for Col. Budd J. Peaslee. Smith’s history is reported as his having flown thirty-one combat missions, and his record with the 384th indicates that he flew twenty-five of them with that group based in Grafton Underwood, England.
The 384th Bomb Group’s photo gallery contains photos of three aircraft named by Smith: B-17s 42-37727 named Elise after his wife, one named Kort after his son (which I cannot find in the 384th’s aircraft database), and 44-8007 named Screaming Eagle .
Smith turned over command of the 384th Bomb Group to Lt. Col. Theodore R. Milton on October 24, 1944. Smith was reassigned to the Pentagon, where he spent the last six months of WWII as chief of the Bombardment Branch, Requirements Division of the Army Air Forces. Shortly after V-J Day he was transferred to March Field, California as the director of operations until he was sent to the Air University at Maxwell Field, Alabama in 1946, where he was appointed Chief of the Research Division.
Smith attended the Air War College as a student for a year from the summer of 1947 to summer 1948. Next he attended Stanford University, graduating in January 1951 with a Master of Arts and Doctor of Education degrees. Smith was assigned to the faculty of the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base and later appointed Deputy Director of Education at Headquarters Air University. On May 1, 1952, Smith was appointed Director of Education. In October 1953, he was promoted to Brigadier General. On July 1, 1954, Smith was assigned to the staff of the Operations Coordinating Board in Washington, D.C.
In 1956, Smith returned to the Pentagon where he was assigned as Chief, Policy Division in the Plans Directorate of DCSIO, Headquarters U.S. Air Force. Smith played a significant role in preparing the U.S. position for negotiations carried on with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for Dhahran Airfield.
When King Saud visited the United States in February 1957, Smith was the military representative in the talks between the U.S. and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In March 1957 he went to Saudi Arabia as the Department of Defense representative. On July 1, 1957 Smith assumed command of the 2nd Air Division (U.S. Air Forces in Europe) at Dhahran Airfield and the U.S. Military Training Mission to Saudi Arabia.
Upon completion of his mission to Saudi Arabia, Smith was transferred to the Far East and on Jan. 8, 1958, he assumed command of the 313th Air Division (Pacific Air Forces) on Okinawa. In March of 1959 Smith participated in the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization maneuver “Air Progress” held in Thailand.
Smith was promoted to Major General June 30, 1959, and a year later, on June 30, 1960 he returned to the United States, to Stewart Air Force Base in New York for his new command of the 64th Air Division.
On July 20, 1961 Smith was assigned to Washington, D.C. as special assistant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for Arms Control. He was responsible for assisting the Joint Chiefs on all matters pertaining to disarmament.
Smith was reassigned on July 8, 1963, as the Air Force Member of the Joint Strategic Survey Council (also known as “The Three Wise Men”), which advises the Joint Chiefs and consists of only three officers of two star rank, one from each service, together with three colonel-captain level officers and secretarial help.
Major General Dale O. Smith retired on July 1, 1964. In retirement, he authored two books, Cradle of Valor: The Intimate Letters of A Plebe at West Point Between the Two World Wars, published in 1988, and Screaming Eagle: Memoirs of A B-17 Group Commander, published in 1990.
Smith died January 5, 1998 in Palm Springs, Riverside County, California, and is buried in the United States Military Academy Post Cemetery, West Point, Orange County, New York, Plot: Section VI, Row B, Site 100.
Smith was awarded the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross with three clusters, and the Croix de Guerre with palm. During his command, the 384th was cited twice as a Distinguished Unit.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016