Golden Gate Wing Guest Speaker Archive

Presentation Date: October 24, 2014

Heber H. Smith 1LT, US Army Air Corps

Heber Smith was born in November 1924 in Evanston, Illinois, the younger of two brothers. Their father was in the advertising agency business; their mother was a stay-at-home housewife. In 1940, the family moved to Berkeley, California. Heber graduated from Berkeley High School in the spring of 1942 and entered the University of California at Berkeley in the fall of that year.

Heber enlisted in the Army Air Corps in San Francisco and was called to active duty in April 1943. He completed Preflight training at Santa Ana Army Air Base, California. Based on the results of written and hand-eye coordination tests, he was selected for bombardier training. After graduation from Bombardier School at Victorville Army Air Base, California, he went to Dalhart, Texas for B-17 crew training.

Completing that, his crew flew to Prestwick, Scotland where they were assigned to the 94th Bomb Group at Bury St. Edmunds in East Anglia, England. Heber flew the first of 35 combat missions on June 5, 1944, the day before D-Day. One of these flights ended July 31st by ditching battle-damaged "Hello, Mr. Maier" in the North Sea.

Heber's last mission was on October 17 of that year. His tail gunner was killed in another incident which he will explain.

After completing his tour of combat duty, He returned to the US and began pilot training. He completed Primary at Uvalde, Texas and Basic at Mission, Texas. After the war ended in Europe, in the spring of 1945 he was discharged at Fort MacArthur, California as a First Lieutenant. He served in the Reserve for ten years and separated as a Captain. His military decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Presidential Unit Citation with one Oak Leaf Cluster.

Recently, Heber was awarded the French Legion of Honor for his service over France during the war.

After graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in Business Administration, Heber became assistant promotions manager at the Oakland Tribune. Then he began selling radio advertising time at both the local and national levels.

He remained in the radio broadcasting business for almost 27 years. In the mid-1970s, he became general manager of station KABL (then owned by Gordon McLendon and now defunct). From 1975 to 1980, he was general manager of KNBR.

In the early 1980s, he left the broadcast industry, bought a window manufacturing company, sold it in the mid-1990s, and retired to Rossmoor in Walnut Creek, California.

During the last 10 years, Heber has spoken to over 5,000 primarily high school students about his experiences; he deems it very necessary and rewarding.

Heber married Barbara Gray in 1948. They have three daughters, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.