SMITH, LEWIS PHILIP II
Name: Lewis Philip Smith II
Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 02 January 1943
Home City of Record: Bellefonte PA
Date of Loss: 30 May 1968
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 151800N 1072300E
Status in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 1991 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.
SYNOPSIS: Lewis P. Smith III majored in music at Penn State and graduated in
1964. He planned to teach music after his obligation to the Air Force was
over. While at Penn State, Lewis received the Cessna Award for outstanding
performance as a student pilot in relation to his AFROTC duties.
Upon graduation from Penn State, Smith was trained on T-38 and C130 aircraft
for the next 3 years, and then went on to small craft training for his new
assignment as a Forward Air Controller. After completing FAC school, Smith
was sent to Vietnam.
Forward Air Control was as dangerous a flying job as could be had in
Vietnam, partly because of the small aircraft used was largely unarmed;
partly because the nature of the job kept the pilot close to the ground and
therefore he was vulnerable to ground attack by small arms fire. It was also
an essential job, as the target marking and visual reconnaissance missions
flown were vital to the success and versatility of air and ground offensives
directed by FAC.
On May 30, 1968, Smith was the pilot of an O2A aircraft assigned a FAC
mission about 15 iles east of the city of Chavane in Saravane Province,
Laos. During the mission, Smith encountered enemy fire, resulting in the
crash of his plane. Electronic signals were heard at the scene, indicating
that he survived the crash, but he was not rescued. Smith was listed Missing
A September 13, 1968, statement by Lao leader Soth Pethrasi may indicate
that Smith survived to be captured. This statement, monitored from Puerto
Corrected 07/16/2014 based on actual 1969 document:
A September 13, 1968, statement by Lao leader Soth Pethrasi COMMENTING ON
THE LIST PRESENTED BY THE RED CROSS WAS monitored from Puerto Rico AND
mentioned "Smith, Christiano, Jeffords, and Mauterer" as being part of
"several dozen captured American airmen" whom the Pathet Lao were "treating
correctly and who [were] still in Laos." There are only three Smiths listed
missing in Laos prior to September 13, 1968. These are Harding E. Smith,
Jr., Lewis P. Smith and Warren P. Smith.
Following the signing of the Paris Peace Agreements, 591 American prisoners
were released from North Vietnam. Lewis Smith was not one of them. In fact,
not one of the nearly 600 who were lost in Laos was released. Many of them
survived their loss incident and some, like Smith sent emergency signals.
Some were in voice contact and some were even photographed in captivity.
Government officials later expressed their shock that "hundreds" more
Americans that were expected to be released were not. The U.S. Government
has been unable to secure the freedom of any more prisoners held in Vietnam,
even though over 10,000 reports have been received concerning Americans
still alive in Southeast Asia.