Master Sergeant (Ret.) Robert Smouse began his military career as a visual signalman in the U.S. Navy during World War II. His amphibious assault craft suffered no casualties during the initial invasion of Sicily in 1943, and would later deliver troops to the shores of Utah Beach on D-Day.
“I was the youngest guy on the ship, and I had five Bronze Stars before I was 19 years old,” he said. Smouse turned 21 on Sept. 2, 1945, the day the war ended. He separated from the Navy and briefly worked in the coal mines of Pennsylvania before deciding the job “wasn’t for him.”
He then enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1947, starting over as a “buck private.” He was soon back in Europe, deployed to Bavaria in support of the Berlin Airlift…hauling coal. “I got away from the coal mines, but not the coal,” Smouse said with a laugh.
He would deploy two times to Africa, twice to Crete and once to Germany during his Air Force career. Smouse finished his career as the flight line supervisor for 340th Armament and Electronics Maintenance Squadron at Bergstrom Air Base, Texas, ensuring the readiness of airborne electronic countermeasures on B-52 bomber aircraft assigned to the 340th Bomb Wing. He has lived in Austin, Texas, since retiring Oct. 31, 1965.