Bio: Smith, Lt.
Col. Herbert M. (10 May 2002)
Contact: Kenneth Wood
----Sources: Marshfield News Herald May 10, 2002 Page 1
NEILLSVILLE VETERAN HONORED
Herb Smith named colonel on his 99th birthday
NEILLSVILLE--Ninety-nine-year-old retired Lt.Col Herbert M. Smith doesn't quite know what to do with his new rank-full colonel in the Wisconsin Army National Guard-now that he has it.
"It doesn't have any military duties associated with it," Smith said.
Smith was elevated to the rank by Maj. Gen James G. Blaney, adjutant general of Wisconsin and commander of the Wisconsin National Guard, Thursday in a ceremony at the Neillsville National Guard Armory. Smith held his previous rank for the past 59 years and four months.
"It was entirely too long to be a lieutenant colonel," Blaney said.
More than 50 militray personnel, family and friends attended the event.
In honor of Smith's promotion, Gov. Scott McCallum proclaimed May 9, 2002, Col. Herbert M. Smith Recognition Day in Wisconsin. It was Smith's 99th birthday.
"The doctor gives me at least two or three more years," Smith said. Last year, Blaney called Smith on the phone and Blaney's office staff sang "Happy Birthday" for him.
Since Smith turned 90, he has written three books; "Four Score and Ten," an autobiography; "Hannibal had Elephants" about going over the Owen-Stanley mountains; and "02141957", his military story.
Smith was just 16 years when he enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard on June 12, 1919, while the Wisconsin Guard's 32nd Division was part of the occupation force in post-World War I Germany. When the 32nd Division was reconstituted in Wisconsin later in 1919, Smith continued his service in the Neillsville-based Guard rifle company until 1926, when he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and assigned as a supply officer in the 128th Infantry Regiment's service company.
When the 32nd Division was mobilized for World War II, Smith shipped overseas with most of the division to Australia.
In October 1942, the Maj. Smith was assigned commander of 2nd Battalion, 126th Infantry, as the battalion began a grueling 100 mile march over Papua New Guinea's Owen-Stanley Mountains into the Battle Buna. There his battalion of 1,200 men and other 32nd Division soldiers fought the first U.S. Army offensive operation in the Southwest Pacific. One week into the battle, Smith was among three soldiers wounded by a mortar shell. He spent five months in the hospital.
Smith's service both in the peace time National Guard and the wartime 32nd Division was exemplary, Blaney said.
He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by order of Gen. Douglas MacArthur for feroism in action at Buna and, in 1990, Giv. Tommy Thompson awarded him the Wisconsin National Guard Distinguished Service Medal.
Smith has one son, Jerry, who lives in Neillsville and a daughter, Jean, who lives in Fridley, Minn. He also has six grandchildren and four-great-grandchildren. He outlived two wives, Dorothy and Lorna.
Despite living 99 years, "there isn't one thing I can kick about," Smith said.
Smith's family owned the telephone company in Neillsville, Wis. He started out working on the line crew and finished up in the office.
He did pretty much every thing at one time or another--stringing wire, trimming trees, trouble shooting, installing telephones and central office maintenance. In 1935 he started learning about office preocedures.
In 1965, he retired from the family telephone business and the family sold the company.
Since his retirement, he spends his time traveling, coin collecting, fishing, hunting, taking paictures and cooking.
His secret to a long life, he said, is two glasses of burgundy wine a day.
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