PFC Clyde Jacob Smith
by E.A. EYLER
Photo Credit to Richard Starbird
When I was six months old, my uncle Jake moved in with us. We lived in a small house alongside Rt. 491 in an area called Lantz. At least it was Lantz until the1960s when the Lantz Post office closed, and our postmark became Sabillasville. The truth was we lived in neither. Just out in the country on a mountain saddle between the South Mountain and Catoctin ranges. My grandparents’ farm was a half mile back the road, where, on maybe 15 acres of tillable land, they raised a family of twelve children. Jake and my mom, Mildred, were born somewhere in the middle. And now, Jake had fallen out with his parents and left home.
Jake had knocked around after leaving school. He worked at Victor Cullen Sanitorium as a dishwasher and occasional projector operator, but, mostly, he had worked on the family farm and for his brother-in-law, Glenn (Junior) Willard, on his farm a mile back the road.
But, Jake was dissatisfied. He wanted to do something more with his life. He wanted to see the world and start a career. It was 1951 and there was a war in Korea. He wanted to join the Army. Trouble was, he was only 17. And, at 17, you needed your parents to sign off, and they refused. Likely, my grandmother put her foot down. She ran the roost. So, Jake moved in with my parents.
Jake was persistent, however, and after six months, tempers cooled, and his parents reluctantly agreed to sign.
He took basic training at Fort Meade and then shipped out to Germany. Unhappy with his assignment there, he requested a transfer to Korea and arrived there on July 14, 1952.
On August 7, 1952, he was assigned Fire Direction Liaison Operator with the 57th Artillery Battalion, Charlie “C” Battery. Finally, he requested to join a Forward Observe Team and was assigned to the 31st Infantry Regiment 3rd Battalion “K” Company as a Wire Corporal. His duties were to keep communications open via radio between his Forward Observation team and the gun battery.
Per a letter received by Jake’s parents from Colonel R.A. Risden, Major General Wayne Smith’s chief of Staff:
“On 17 October 1952, (during the battle of Triangle Hill in the Iron Triangle), friendly forces engaged in an extensive offensive action against a strategic enemy-held hill, were subjected to an intense enemy mortar and artillery barrage. Private Smith was with the Forward Observer Party relaying vital communications when the radio suddenly failed. Ignoring the fierce enemy fire, Private Smith left his position of relative safety, and, moving through the impact area, secured additional batteries so communications could be restored. Upon his return, Private Smith, noticing several wounded men in danger of falling over a cliff, rushed to their aid and helped in evacuating them. Again returning to his position, Private Smith, with complete disregard for his personal safety, answered a call for volunteers to help defend the friendly positions and moved in to the forward trenches (with Riflemen of the Infantry units), where he valiantly fought off numerically superior enemy forces until he was mortally wounded by enemy fire (an artillery shell landing close to his position).”
He received the Silver Star and the Purple Heart, posthumously. He was buried January, 8, 1953, in Germantown Bethel Church Cemetery.
According to Lt. Richard Starbird and Sgt. Howard Nease, who served with him, “Smitty was a good soldier, well-liked by his buddies. He chewed Plow Boy brand tobacco and loved the Hershey Bars in his rations. Clyde was a strong man who was good at “Tapping the Box” (keeping the radio working). He loved being a soldier. He looked forward to mail from his family and a girl named, Jennie.”