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Leighton  C.  Smith

 

Personal Legacy
LEIGHTON C. SMITH
World War II
Memories and Biography

(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)

San Antonio, Texas

4 February 1988

Dear C.W.:

With reference to my serial numbers. All Army cadets at that time were enlisted except ROTC, etc. I performed no other duties except flying.

Reference the crew list - Clifford (navigator) and DeVinney (Book) definitely in error. My (navigator) was named Sweet from New York (Bombardier Kuhlman was from California. I have no information about first names, etc. All my records were lost in later moves. Difficulty in control was caused by fighters cracking out controls on second pass - difficulty was lateral control. Soon it was obvious to me that bail out was the only solution. Almost at instant bail out signal was given and fighters hit bomb bay tank, 500 gallons 110 octane. British and American assured us there would be no fighters - what a laugh! Most of us lost our hair and were severely burned in escaping.

Many theories exist and always will. I believe your report is in error. Navigator and bombardier, I know for sure. About observer's reported ship breaking up at 8000 feet. Here, again, I think mistaken identity. I find it almost impossible to believe that our plane made it from 21 or 23,000 feet to 8,000 feet before breaking up. The other remark that we were the third plane lost from the 67th on 16 August. I was told in PW camp that the entire 67th was lost that day. I know or did know two of the pilots of the 67th - they were in my flying class. Whitlock [506th?] and Shannon [68th?].

Sincerely,

Leighton Smith
67th Sq. Pilot

August 1943

First Lt. Leighton C. Smith, flying "Buzzin' Bear," a plane which was almost as famous as "Suzy Q" was the third 67th squadron ship lost on 16 August. Like "Suzy Q," it was lost without many observing her end. But unlike "Suzy," there were some survivors.

It was reported that Lt. Smith was having great difficulty maintaining formation due to the heavy flak and the fierce, persistent fighter attacks that were inflicting considerable damage. Shortly after leaving the target, and down to an estimated altitude of 8,000 feet, with the gunners still fighting off the attacks, the plane broke in two. Four chutes were observed, all from the front of the plane, while those in the rear were continuing to shoot down their attackers. None of these gunners got out, riding their aircraft to the ground. Two of these gunners were former ground crewmen.
 
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