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    MY MEMORIES OF A GOOD FRIEND: CHARLIE SMITH    

To my fellow Marines and in particular the Assault Amphibian Family:

The attached e-mail from Charlie Smith's wife Linda, and his children, unfortunately announces the passing of a close personal friend, and a Marine who friends are legions in our Corps. Charlie Smith now resides in Heaven where he remains a good Marine and will always be remembered as such.

Charlie had a great influence on my life as well as a key player in the fact that I made Colonel. I first met him right out of Basic School where he joined me as a student at the Tracked Vehicle School at Camp Delver. At the time, I was Chief Instructor of the 1800 activities at the Schools Battalion.

It was a time when a Chief Instructor could do and get away with a lot of things not possible today. Because almost all of the students were heading for Okinawa, I planned a two day visit to the Amphibious Training Command at Coronado. It was in essence a boondoggle trip to take them to an authentic Japanese Restaurant in San Diego as well as spend an evening in Tijuana. We had a great time and no one enjoyed it more than Charlie..as we reflected back on the occasion over the years.. I caught up with him on Okinawa where he was a platoon leader in "Bravo Company" under Jack Rowley. The most significant event took place during that tour with Bill Lohan as his platoon sergeant. Charlie had been out on a float to the Philippines among other places and was returning to Okinawa with his platoon. He did not know it at the time and if he did find out that the landing was going to attended by a large contingent of dignitaries it was too late to undue what he had done. The morning of the landing at Kin Blue had stands filled with high ranking members of officers on Okinawa, plus a large group of Japanese/ Okinawans. Out of the LSTs came Charlies platoon. The Amtrac Officers could only gasp at what they saw. All of Charlies tractors had been painted with red lead paint and it was a spectacle to behold. Little Marine Corps green was to be seen. An officer from Division who was describing the landing events went pale and was speechless.

As soon as they reached the beach, the Amtracs pulled up against the sea wall and now completely out of the water they looked like big red sponges. Jack Rowley wasted no time in finding Charlie and one can only guess how the one sided conversation went. As I was to find out later, Charlie was able to get all the red lead paint he needed from the Navy and decided to get his platoon vehicles ready for Marine Corps green when he returned to White Beach.

Nothing really ever came of the event and Charlie was did not incur any other wrath than getting his ass chewed out everyday for about two weeks. We pulled a lot of liberty together in Nago when he was my assistant Civic Action Officer. We made great friends with the leaders of the brewery of Kerin Beer in Nago and although almost all were former Japanese soldiers, we got a long OK. The ride to Nago was always exciting. Our Supply Officer bought a very old black Buick that had very bad brakes. To help stop the car, we removed all the floor boards so we could put our feet down on the road to provide some braking action.

My most cherished time with him was in Vietnam in 1967-68. Charlie was Headquarters Commandant but his most important job was running the underground Command Center (COC) which was the lifeline to all Combat Action. He supervised the construction of COC when we moved to the Marble Mountains and there was none finer in South Vietnam.

It was Charlies job to prepare all the patrol routes for submission to Division so that everyone knew where our troops would be. This was a Herculean effort and involved first hand information of our entire Area of Responsibility which was very large and included the four mountains. Charlie was also our contact man with the leper colony which led to many stories involved that unusual place. The head of the colony was a Reverend Smith so Charlie had something in common with him. Although we never trusted Rev Smith since he played all ends against the middle and was friendly with the VC. We often uncovered large caches of enemy weapons hidden there.

Gunnery Sergeant Bill Cobis was the Gunny for Headquarters Company. He and Charlie worked well together..especially with the Combat Patrols and it was a blessing for a Commander to know that these important combat functions and the lives of so many Marines were in such capable hands.

In 1973 we ended up in Okinawa together, again As Battalion Commander, I assigned Charlie the Headquarters Commandant. His presence was invaluable as most of the officers in the Battalion were not amphibian officers....but tank trained at Fort Knox. I remember one night sitting in my Quarters with Charlie and planning the evacuation of Vietnamese from Red Beach in Da Nang. At the time the North Vietnamese were moving towards Da Nang. The operation did not happen, but we were ready if needed.

Without going into a lot of detail, there became a need for a Company of LVTP-7;s to go to Thailand to fire 50,000 rounds of 50 caliber ammunition and to leave the special links for the Thai Marines who could not fire their weapons without this particular link. It was a memorable trip and Charlie was in Command of the LVT's. We spent an enjoyable week working with the Thai Marines. Before we left, the Thai Officers threw an elaborate Mess Night for the Marine Officers at Pataya Beach. The uniform was Dress Whites. Before the night ended, the US Marines had the Thai Officers involved with Carrier Landings. This was accomplished by putting long tables together and soaking the tops down with beer. Then the person doing the landing, would run full speed up the tables, spread their arms apart and see how far down the tables they would slide. Charlie was the champion. I remember going back to Sata Heep that night in my Mercedes provided with a driver by the Thai Marines. It was our last stella moment together and one not to be be forgotten.

Charlie went on to recruiting assignments in New York as a Colonel. I know he was one of the most successful recruiters in the Marine Corps at that time and was so honored. We stayed in touch by phone and I remember the call he made to me that his son Eric had been accepted to the Naval Academy. He couldn't have been more proud.

So it it any wonder that although the news is personnaly devastating, that I can sit here and relieve those many pleasant moments with him. He will never leave my thoughts because he was so involved with me during my career. Those who you experience combat with.. have a special place in your heart..and he is there in mine.

Perhaps the best story of Charlie did not involve me, but it was known through out Quantico. When he arrived for Officers Candidate School, on a Marine Corps bus that had picked the Candidates up, Charlie got off the bus with a bag of golf clubs over his shoulder. Although it was anything but funny at the time, we relieved that mistake in judgment many times over. He was the perfect person to be with on a gloomy Monday morning or to be there when you needed someone to depend on...if not lean on.

God Bless and keep you Charlie Smith and thanks for being my friend.

Colonel Stub Chace, USMC (Ret)