Local World War II veteran, Pearl Harbor survivor honored on 100th birthday

Beavercreek resident Elmer Smith deflected praise, saying his brother who died in the war should get the honor

On March 10, Sgt. Elmer Calvin Smith received hundreds of greeting cards to his home in Beavercreek from across the United States, congratulating the World War II veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor on his 100th birthday.

“It’s hard to turn 100, but it’s a lot easier to turn 101,” Smith said.

Leadership of the American Legion Post 763 in Beavercreek presented Smith with a certificate Friday, congratulating him on his 100th birthday, and thanking him for his service.

But Smith’s thoughts immediately were not of himself, but of his brother.

Walter Smith died Oct. 20, 1944 at the Battle of Leyte in the Phillippines, at the age of 22.

“He’s the one that should be getting the recognition,” he said.

Smith grew up in upstate New York, and enlisted in the Army Air Corps at the start of World War II. His brother was not able to get a spot in the Air Corps, and so was instead enlisted in the infantry.

The newly minted centenarian was 18 years old during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“In 15 minutes, we had 30 dead and 45 wounded. And I just escaped,” he said.

However, that was only the beginning of Smith’s military career, he said, describing how later in the war he flew on P-40 Warhawks and B-17s in the Pacific Theater, near what is now the island nation of Vanuatu.

“I was in armaments. But I had to fly sometimes,” he said. “We had a 2,200-mile round trip with a B-29, and they didn’t put good engines in them. And most people, in B-29s, if you were coming home, usually you’d come in on three engines. You’d lose an engine.”

After World War II was over, Smith married his wife Elinora — and the couple celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary last year.

Of their long marriage, Elinora said the secret is “always saying you love him before you close your eyes at night.”

Members of the American Legion say they wanted to honor Smith on his birthday not just because they are veterans looking after veterans, but because the struggles of World War II veterans should not be forgotten.

“Whenever we see folks that have gone through that, it gives you a different perspective of what they sacrificed,” said Dan Diaspro, immediate past commander of Post 763.

“As part of our history, we need to uphold the pride in the sacrifices that so many people have made, so that we can enjoy our great nation,” said Rev. Dr. Charles Williams, Post 763 Chaplain. “Free may be in the word freedom, but freedom is not free.”

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