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William Smith

General (Ret.) William Smith was part of the first group of West Point graduates commissioned into the newly established U.S. Air Force. After pilot training, he was assigned to fly the F-84D at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. Later, Smith was assigned to the 49th Fighter Bomber Group at Taegu Air Field, Korea. On Feb. 2, 1952, during his 97th mission, he was struck by anti-aircraft artillery. Flack completely penetrated the cockpit and destroyed his right ankle and foot. Remarkably, Smith piloted his damaged aircraft, landing in the China Sea mud flats. After he was rescued and evacuated, doctors amputated his right foot and ankle. Following nine months in various hospitals and three months at Harvard University, Smith became an instructor and subsequently an associate professor at West Point. Later he reported to the White House as the Air Force staff assistant to Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, the military representative to President Kennedy. When Taylor became the Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff, Smith remained on his team, assisting in the U.S. response to the Cuban Missile Crisis. “We all have a chance to do what we can. Some of us are lucky and some of us aren’t,” Smith said. “But if we do what our talent allows, and bring others along, we will have success and contribute to the safety of this great nation.”