Cornelius Marcellus Smith, Jr. was born on November 11, 1918 "Armistice Day" in Baltimore, Maryland. Named after his father, Cornelius M. Smith, he was one of five children: one brother Thomas Smith and three sisters. In 1926 the family moved to Brooklyn, NY. He graduated from Public School 102 and Manual Training High School. Smith received Civil Air Authority training, learned to fly and was employed as a salesman.
During September 1941, Smith enlisted in the U. S. Army. On December 15, 1941 he became an aviation cadet. He married to Dorothy Harman Smith, who was nicknamed "Dottie" or "Dot". During November 1942 he was a passenger on a transport from the United States across the Pacific before arriving in Australia. During late 1942, he was assigned to the 5th Air Force, 8th Fighter Group, 80th Fighter Squadron "Headhunters" along with pilots Bob Siebenthal, Albon Hailey and Alex Woodall.
During November 1942, Smith began flying combat missions in the P-39 Airacobra from Turnbull Field near Milne Bay and then 3 Mile Drome (Kila) near Port Moresby and before transitioned to the P-38 Lightning. On August 6, 1943 Smith suffered a minor taxi accident piloting L-4B 43-1182.
During the course of his combat flying, Smith had at least four P-38s assigned to him:
P-38F "Dottie From Brooklyn" 42-12647 nicknamed by Smith, later crash landed in January 1944
P-38H "Corky Jr." 42-66668 nicknamed by Smith, later missing piloted by 2nd Lt. Keown crashed April 16, 1944
P-38J "Corky III" 42-67580 ultimate fate unknown
P-38J "Corky IV" ultimate fate unknown, nose letter L
While Smith was flying combat missions between November 1942 until June 1943, he failed to close with any Japanese fighters and became worried he might be rotated home without experiencing combat or scoring an aerial victory.
On August 6, 1943 Smith crashed L-4B Grasshopper 43-1182 at 3 Mile Drome (Kila) accidentally taxing into a tractor while avoiding a P-40 Warhawk.
Aerial Victory Claims
Smith was officially credited with 11 aerial victories, two probables and one damaged. His aerial victory claims include:
Smith claimed two probable victories and an aircraft damaged:
1) June 21, 1943: Ki-43 Oscar probable, but did not observe any damage
2) September 15, 1943: "Zero" (Ki-43) probable claimed over Boram
3) March 30, 1944: Ki-43 damaged over Hollandia
June 21, 1943: Tipple Victory
On June 21, 1943 Smith piloted P-38F "Dottie From Brooklyn 42-12647" took off at 9:30am with Ray Daly and Jim Ince leading his flight on a mission to escort B-25 Mitchells over Guadalgasal between Lae and Salamaua. Over the target at 15,000', Smith spotted enemy fighters and signaled his flight and they released their drop tanks and dove down to attack and unsuccessfully fired on a Ki-43 Oscar from the 23rd Sentai. When he pulled out of the dog fight, an Oscar was firing at his tail and escaped at full throttle by pulling up.
After clearing his tail, he fired on several other Oscars but did not observe any results, probably firing from too great a range or at the wrong deflection. Fellow pilot Bob Adams flew with Smith and indicated him to take the lead, as his guns were inoperative. Attacking an Oscar that filled his gun sight and saw the enemy's left wing break off and pieces to break off then crashed into the jungle below. This was Smith's first confirmed aerial victory. Immediately, another Oscar attacked Smith and Adams made a run on the enemy and caused it attack him instead but managed to shake it.
Meanwhile, Smith lost Adams and attacked other Oscars flying in a circle. He fired at an enemy plane from 300 yards and caused it to explode between the tail and cockpit, possibly hitting the oxygen tank and crashed into the jungle, his second victory. One of the other Oscars in the circle dove down to attack Smith head on, but he opened fire with a long burst of all his armament that hit the enemy plane in the engine and belly and crashed into the ground, his third victory. Afterwards, he joined up with other P-38s from the squadron over Lae but his engines began to overheat and he returned to base.
After the mission, he was credited with three victories and a probable (an Oscars Smith claimed to have fired on that no damage was observed). The enemy aircraft were incorrectly claimed to be "Zeros". Both sides over claimed on this mission. The 24th Sentai only lost one pilot shot down and killed, Ki-43 Oscar piloted by W/O Menya. Possibly, other Oscars were lost but their pilots survived and returned to duty. The 24th Sentai claimed eight P-38s shot down, when in fact none were lost. The eight Ki-48 Lily bombers they were escorting escaped without being shot down, aside from several unsuccessful firing passes made on the bombers.
October 16, 1943
On October 16, 1943 Smith piloted P-38H "Corky Jr." 42-66668 took off from 3 Mile Drome (Kila) near Port Moresby one of sixteen P-38s from the 80th Fighter Squadron on a mission to escort B-25s over Wewak. Inbound to the target, one P-38 aborted the mission. Over the target, enemy fighters were observed at 15,000'. When the B-25s finished their low level attack over Boram Airfield, they were attacked from the rear. Attacking from 6,000', Smith fired on several Ki-61 Tonys. After firing at one Tony and overshooting it, his wingman Jennings Myers, observed it to crash in flames and claimed another himself. This was Smith's fourth confirmed aerial victory. That day, the U. S. claimed five victories. In fact, the Japanese lost four Tonys.
October 24, 1943
On October 24, 1943 Smith piloted P-38H "Corky Jr." 42-66668 took off from 3 Mile Drome (Kila) near Port Moresby as one of sixteen 80th Fighter Squadron P-38s that participated in an escort mission for B-25s on a low level mission over Rabaul. Flying at 11,000' over Kabanga Bay, the P-38s intercepted "Hamps" attacking the B-25s around 11:30am. During the combat, Smith made several head on passes between 1,500' to 5,000'. During the combat, he hit a Zero that crashed and when he landed was credited with his fifth aerial victory, making him an ace. Returning from the mission, he had to feather his left engine due to lack of fuel and followed a damaged 39th Fighter Squadron P-39 and a B-25 Mitchel back to Kiriwina Airfield.
December 22, 1943
On December 22, 1943 Smith took off took off from 3 Mile Drome (Kila) near Port Moresby as one of seventeen P-38s on a mission to escort B-25s on a mission over Wewak. Over the target at 10,000' in clouds and rain. Smith was leading the last flight with wingman Lt. John Stanifer until it was broken up by many enemy fighters were airborne to cover a Japanese convoy including Oscars from the 59th and 248th Sentai plus 68th and 78th Sentai and attacked both the B-25s and P-38s. Enemy fighters hit Stanifer's P-38 and Smith had problems releasing his drop tanks. Flying 500' over Brandi Plantation, Smith observed six P-38s overshoot an Oscar over the sea and managed to shot it down as a confirmed victory before departing the area. This mission eight Japanese fighters were shot down, two from each Sentai involved. The Japanese claimed seven B-25s shot down and four P-38s shot down (only two were lost and two damaged).
December 26, 1943
Smith took off on a patrol mission over Cape Gloucester to cover the American landings, leading the second element. He observed an enemy fighter and attacked, but lost it in clouds then linked up with P-47s and fired on an Oscar without results. While a P-47 covered him, Smith chased another Oscar 50 miles along the coast and observed yellow ring around the rear fuselage and white tail markings on the Oscar. Firing from the rear with all guns, the Oscar broke apart and exploded, his seventh confirmed victory.
On February 8, 1944 Smith was promoted to Captain. He finished his combat tour of duty in May 1944 as one of the 80th Fighter Squadron's highest ranking aces with eleven confirmed victories.
On September 27, 1946 he was promoted to Major and then joined the U. S. Air Force (USAF). On August 1, 1951 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. On November 3, 1964 promoted to Colonel. After retiring from the military, he lived in retirement in South Carolina. He passed away on December 4, 1997.
Smith is buried at Arlington National Cemetery at
section 4-MM ROW 24, site 2. Dorothy passed away on May 5, 2005 and is buried alongside him.
Jerry L. Watson (son in law of C. M. Smith)
"C. M. Smith, Jr. was my father-in-law. Corky was an only child whose father kept a diary entry of practically every day of his life.”
Paul Watson (grandson of C. M. Smith)
NARA "World War II Army Enlistment Records" Cornelius M. Smith, Jr.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle "Smith Boys Just Too Much For the Nips" November 10, 1943 pages 1, 17
Page 17: "Calls Plane 'Corky Junior' Lt. Cornelius Smith, son of Mr and Mrs. Cornelius M. Smith, has named his P-38 'Corky Junior' after himself. Letters home revealed that he shot down four Jap planes, all confirmed and was credited with four probables. 'The Japs are getting holy hell knocked out of them' he wrote. 'They are solely on the defensive now'. He has the Air Medal and the D.F.C. and admits he is hoping to get the Silver Star. He will be 25 tomorrow."
Aces of the Pacific pages 11 (photos), 25 (artwork)
Stars and Bars page 560 Lists P-38H-1 42-66668 as flown by C. M. Smith, Jr. on October 16, 1943 and October 24, 1943.
Attack & Conquer page 92, 110 (photo) 112-114, 132, 135 (photo), 136, 138 (photo), 177-178, 184-185, 187-188, 267, 284-287, 299 (photo) 315
P-38 Lightning Aces of the Pacific and CBI page 28, 34 (photo)
WWII Victories of the Army Air Force page 34 lists 11 victories
Air War Pacific: Chronology page 233 October 24, 1943 mission
FindAGrave - Cornelius Marcellus Smith
5th Air Force In Profile page 119 (artwork)
Flightpath Magazine "Elusive New Guinea Swallow" by Michael Claringbould
mentions October 16, 1943 victory
Do you have photos or additional information to add?