Feature Index      NEXT

1896 - 1980
Chief of Staff, 3rd Armored Division, 1942-45

Compiled from 3AD Association Newsletter of April, 1980,
with added information from 3AD.com research.

An Old Soldier Fades Away
'Long John' Smith Dies at Age 84


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 for approval.

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 loved it!"

Return to Top

Feature Index      NEXT