SMITH, HOMER LEROY Remains Returned 16 March 1974 Name: Homer Leroy Smith Rank/Branch: O4/US Navy Unit: Attack Squadron 212, USS BON HOMME RICHARD Date of Birth: 06 February 1926 Home City of Record: Alma WV Date of Loss: 20 May 1967 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 211100N 1064500E (XJ816432) Status (in 1973): Prisoner of War Category: 1 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A4C Refno: 0702 Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 May 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 2009. REMARKS: 740316 REMS RETND EGRESS: Seen after shootdown with hands raised - helmet on display in Hanoi in 1972 SYNOPSIS: The USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA 31) saw early Vietnam war action. A World War II Essex-class carrier, she was on station participating in combat action against the Communists as early as August 1964. Her aircraft carried the first Walleye missiles when they were introduced in 1967, and her Attack Squadron 212 was the first Walleye bomb squadron. In November 1970, the BON HOMME RICHARD completed its sixth combat deployment and was scheduled for decommissioning by mid-1971. LTCDR Homer L. Smith had been the skipper of Attack Squadron 212 onboard the BON HOMME RICHARD when he returned to Vietnam to fly his 200th combat mission. As a commander, this Naval Academy graduate was well-respected and had a reputation for being hard-nosed. LTCDR Smith launched from the Bonnie Dick on a combat mission over North Vietnam on May 20, 1967. About 15 miles north of the city of Haiphong, his aircraft was hit by enemy fire and crashed. A shipmate, T.R. Swartz, related later that he had known Smith was worried about the mission from the way he smoked nervously during the briefing. "Sure enough," continues Swartz, "he got tagged with a gun..." Smith ejected successfully and landed on the ground safely, but rescue teams could not recover him because of the hostile threat in the area. Homer Smith was captured by the Vietnamese, and according to another Navy officer, was tortured to death. The officer is certain, in his own mind, that Smith was as hard-nosed as a POW as he was as a commander. It was not possible to resist utterly and survive. There had been some dispute about the validity of the Code in Vietnam, an undeclared war. American POWs who had flown with Homer L. Smith would have had no doubt as to what was expected of them as prisoners - the Code of Conduct would apply to anyone captured. The knowledge, however, was a two-edged sword - on one hand, the captives were glad to understand the guidelines. On the other, when they "broke" (which inevitable they did), immense guilt and shame ensued. Eventually, as they communicated with one another, everyone understood that they had only to do their best. The few who resisted utterly were tortured horribly. On March 15, 1974, the Vietnamese returned the remains of Homer L. Smith to U.S. control with no further explanation. For hundreds of others, however, a homecoming has not occurred. Some one hundred Americans who were known to be prisoners of war were not released at the end of the war. Since the war ended, the torment of these men's families is heightened by the the nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia that have been received by the U.S. Many of the missing were suspected to be held prisoner, and still others were in radio contact with would-be rescuers when last seen alive. Many were known to have survived their loss incidents, only to disappear without a trace. The problem of Americans still missing torments not only the families of those who are missing, but the men who fought by their sides, and those in the general public who realize the full implication of leaving men unaccounted for at the end of a war. Tragically, many authorities believe there are hundreds of Americans still alive in captivity in Southeast Asia today. What must they be thinking of us? What would Homer L. Smith have said if he knew his country would abandon her best men? What will our next generation say if called to fight if we are unable to bring these men home from Southeast Asia?