He was a polo-playing
colonel who led U.S. Army polo teams in places such as England,
Mexico and Hawaii. He also was a much-decorated veteran of World
War II, who served as the trusted Chief of Staff of the 3rd Armored
Division during 1942-1945 under four consecutive commanding generals:
Walton Walker, Leroy Watson, Maurice Rose, and Doyle Hickey.
As Chief of Staff, Col. Smith was known for his organizational
and tactical skills, attention to detail, and calm self-assurance
under the enormous pressures that he faced.
In what is a little known fact, Smith is the one who first
suggested the 3rd Armored nickname of "Spearhead" during
a meeting of Division commanders after the Battle of Mons in
early September, 1944. One purpose of that meeting, called by
Division Commanding General Maurice Rose, was to come up with
a unit nickname, or nicknames, to be submitted to VII Corps headquarters
Retired Col. John A. (Long John) Smith, Jr., age 84, of 3412
Drexel Drive, Dallas, Texas, died February 5, 1980, at Dallas
Medical and Surgical Clinic after a brief illness. Services were
held in the Cox Chapel of Highland Park Methodist Church.
Born in San Antonio, Smith attended the University of Texas at
Austin before joining the Army in 1917. He was commissioned as
an artillery officer that same year. He would later graduate
from the Field Artillery School at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, and from
the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
He also served as the playing captain of the world military champion
U.S. Army polo team in the mid-1930's and was a crack polo player
himself. He coached an ROTC polo team at Stanford University
prior to World War II. Smith earned the nickname "Long John"
because of his height - 6 feet, 6 inches.
Before the war Smith was a close friend of Gen. George Patton
and humorist Will Rogers and, when their paths crossed, spent
free time with each. Among his military decorations, Smith held
the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with cluster, Legion of Merit,
and Purple Heart. He also held the French Legion of Honor - that
nation's highest military award - and the French Croix de Guerre
with palm. Until his retirement from the Army in 1949, Smith
worked in the logistics section of Ground Force Headquarters
in Washington, D.C. Then, after the Korean conflict erupted in
1950, Smith began a thrice-weekly commentary, "A Soldier's
Summary of the Korean War," which was carried for eight
months on WFAA-TV in Dallas.
In 1951, he was named leasing manager for the Fidelity Union
Life Building. Over the years, Smith had entered his prize-winning
watermelon pickles in competition at the State Fair of Texas.
He was a member of the Dallas Rotary Club, Downtown Rotary Club,
Highland Park United Methodist Church and Men's Club. In 1958-1959,
he served as President of the 3rd Armored Division Association.
Survivors included his wife, Helen Smith; a daughter, Mrs. John
G. Burnett; a son, retired Army Col. John A. Smith III; three
grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.
NOTE: The 3AD Association Newsletter of April, 1980, also included
this comment from Col. Smith's son:
From Col. & Mrs. John A. Smith, III: "The Third Armored
spray that was sent from McKinney was perfect. It was right next
to Dad at the church and at the cemetery. He was buried with
full military honors. Soldiers from Fort Hood, taps; both services
at the church and at the cemetery were so moving. Dad would have