U.S. Naval Academy Class Rings

Graduates Remembered

Captain Robert Holmes Smith

Smith
Midshipman Robert Smith

Captain Smith’s class ring was donated to the Naval Academy Museum by his widow, Mrs. Francis Bresnahan Smith on November 22, 1943. The ring was manufactured by Bailey, Banks & Biddle. [1]

Captain Robert Holmes Smith was born on August 8, 1898 in Harrellsville, North Carolina. The class of 1920 He graduated 161 of 460 midshipmen one year early due to World War I from the Naval Academy on June 6, 1919. [2]Captain Smith was a veteran of World War II. His sea commands included three submarines USS S-20, R-18, and Bonita and submarine tender USS Sperry (AS-12).

Captain Smith was just selected as Commander of Squadron 2, Pacific Submarine Fleet, when he died in an airplane crash in California on January 21, 1943. Beneath his casehardened appearance he is open-hearted, generous, always ready to help, and as warm and loyal a friend as can be found. A plane carrying him and Rear Admiral English (USNA 1911) was in transit to the Submarine support facility at Mare Island aboard a Pan-Am Clipper on loan to the U.S. Navy. [3]

Radio contact was lost due to a severe storm which occurred while approaching San Francisco. It flew low over the home of Mrs. Charles Wallach, who was an aircraft spotter in her spare time. “It had it lights on and came right over my home and disappeared in the storm to the north” said Mrs. Wallach. Because of poor communications in the area and the storm it took Mrs. Wallach two days to finally notify authorities and then another eight days before the wreckage was positively located. The plane was 115 miles off course and crashed near Bell Valley, California. Rear Admiral English, his three senior staff Officers: CDR John Crane (USNA 1926), the Pacific Submarine Force engineering officer; CDR Girard Myers USNR, who was in the process of relieving Crane as force engineer; LCDR John Owen Reilly Coll (USNA 1927) the Pacific Submarine Force gunnery officer; and in addition Captain Robert H. Smith, six Navy passengers, a nurse and nine crewmen all perished.

Pan American Flight Airways / Flight 62100 a Martin M-130 Flying Boat "Philippine Clipper" NC14715 with a civilian crew of 9 and 10 passengers departed Oahu Hawaii to San Francisco at 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, January 20 and arrived off the coast of San Francisco about 6:50 a.m. the next morning. Last communication with Pan Am's Treasure Island Base was at 7:22 a.m. It went missing for over a week. The Clipper had crashed and was located on January 30 about 7 miles south-southwest of Ukiah, 90 miles north of San Francisco and 22 miles inland from the Pacific coast, all on board perished. The accident was blamed on human error. Ironically, the Clipper had survived the Japanese Attack on Wake Island on December 7, 1941; with over 60 bullet holes in her, she evacuated 60 passengers later that day from Wake Island to Hawaii. He was 44 years old and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Legion of Merit

Awarded for actions during the World War II:

Captain Robert Holmes Smith, United States Navy, was awarded the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States.[4]

References

[1] United States Naval Academy Museum card file of Curator James Cheevers, retrieved January 7, 2014.

[2] First Class, Lucky Bag, (Annapolis, MD: US Naval Academy, 1919), 208.

[3] Clay Blair, Silent Victory: the U.S. Submarine War Against Japan, (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute press, 2001), 365.

[4] "Hall of Valor," militarytimes.com, accessed May 5, 2016, http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=315036.