2LT Luther Allen Smith
88th Infantry Division,
313th Engineer Battalion, Company B
KIA 15 July, 1944 in Legoli, Italy
-- Robert Allen Smith --
V-Mail, dated June 10, 1944
"My Dear Sweet Wife and Sons: The wind, at present here, is
blowing quite freely, but that won't be enough to discourage me or cause
me to wait until later to write. One never knows when something else
will, but here goes for a few lines. This being the 10th of the month,
I'm glad that I have the opportunity to recall to you the same day of
February, 1942. That sure was one happy day for us, eh? That makes it
28 months. I sure hope that I can get to see you before we celebrate
our 36th month."
My father was a career soldier, joining the Army at age 21, long before
the war had begun. He had spent the following 6 years traveling across
the United States for the Army, spending much more time away from home
than at home.
Father was raised in the coal mining town of Valley View, Pennsylvania
and joined the Army as an alternative to working in the cold, dark, and
dangerous coal mines that would have surely been his fate had he stayed
at home. He was the oldest of 7 brothers and sisters.
Most of his time stateside was in the Signal Corps and he was an avid
short wave radioman, often spending most of the night sending and
receiving Morse code across the country and the world. He would often
get the news before it was in print or even on the radio. However, in
1943 he was given an opportunity to go to OCS to become an officer in a
combat engineering group, part of the 88th Division that would be
leaving for assignment and likely combat in Europe. This division was
the first composed of all draftees and his three years experience as an
instructor for the Ohio National Guard made him an ideal candidate to
join these green troops. Unfortunately he started OCS a little late to
leave stateside with them but met up with them shortly after their
arrival in Naples in early January of 1944. He arrived there before
they did, enjoying the "hospitality" of another division for a week or
He had been married to my mother less than two years when he left my
brother and her for Europe. I was not born until April. There are
several remaining letters and V-Mails reporting my birth and his
excitement of having another son, but he did not try to hide his or my
mother's disappointment of not having a daughter. My first picture that
he received about 10 days after my birth still exists, complete with my
hand and foot prints on the back.
The 88th saw no action in Africa and were still untried when my father
joined them in Italy. It would not stay that way for long. They
quickly became embroiled in the defense of Castllone on Feb. 27, 1944.
For the next 18 months the 88th would slog their way north to Germany in
the liberation of Europe. My father would not complete the journey with
The relationship between the Infantry, the Armor, and the Combat
Engineers was one of team work and respect. Each had to do their jobs
for the survival of the others. Often times the Engineers had to resort
to defending themselves instead of building roads, bridges, or air
strips. Neither the Infantry nor the Armor could proceed without the
removal of the tens of thousands of mines that the German Army had left
behind to protect their withdrawal.
As the Germans withdrew, the command post must be moved ever forward.
It was during the quest for a new command post that on July 15, in a
four story concrete structure in the village of Legoli, Italy my father
was killed. Colonel Cochrane, CO for the 350th Infantry, was reporting
from the newly chosen location of the forward command post to his XO,
James Fry (unknown rank), when the shell exploded. Fry heard an
extremely load noise on the radio and asked Cochrane what it was.
Cochrane had been slightly wounded and confirmed that the shell had
exploded and that there was wounded. With him was my father's CO,
Captain Paul Carrigg who was killed by the artillery shell that had came
through the roof. It had a delayed fuse so that it would detonate
inside the structure rather than on it. My father was among the wounded
and some reports have it that he died the next day. He was 29 years
It was not until after the war that my mother was even told where he
was buried, only that he "could be a few hundred miles north of Rome."
She was later notified that he had been interred at a cemetery in
Fallonica, Italy. After 4 years of frustration for her, my father was
returned home to be reinterred in the family plot on Nov. 22, 1948.
This was a controversial thing to do then. Many thought that they
should have been left "where they fell." None of his family would
attend the services - not his mother, father, nor any of his 7 brothers
or sisters. We have been self-exiled from them for the most part. My
brother and I have had limited contact with only one aunt and one uncle
and only a handful of the dozens of cousins. Although the anger has
long been gone, the pain remains.
I have learned more about my father in the last few years than I had
known about him from my family. We were told not to ask too many
questions about him. It "made others uncomfortable and was impolite."
Unfortunately I was 50 years old when I decided to start asking the
At AWON we dedicate these pages to his memory and those of his comrades,
living and dead, who did not want us to spend our lives wondering, "what
if he . . . ."