Captain Graham Smith and brother Flight Officer Reginald Vinson Smith

Lt. Graham “Peep Sight” Smith

Captain Graham Smith
Born: 4/19/1919 Ahoskie, North Carolina
Died: 4/30/1951 North Korea
Class: 42-F-SE
Awards:  Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Purple Heart, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal

Flight Officer Reginald Vinson Smith, 1945

Flight Officer Reginald Vinson Smith
Born: September 15, 1925 Ahoskie, North Carolina
Died: February 7, 1946 Tuskegee, Alabama
Class: 45-E-SE

The town of Ahoskie, the only town in the world so named, is located in the Inner Banks region of North Carolina. Originally an agricultural community specializing in cotton and tobacco, Ahoskie has been the hometown of several National Football League players and politicians, but two of its citizens, brothers Graham Smith and Reginald V. Smith, became bona fide American heroes.

2nd Lieutenant Graham “Peep Sight” Smith in the cockpit of a Curtiss P-40. Photo courtesy Craig Huntly

Older brother Graham would attend the historic Negro Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina, while Reginald attended the equally historic Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia. Graham’s school would be one of only five selected as a testing ground for African Americans interested in the Civil Aeronautics Authority Training Program. The program, started by General Henry “Hap” Arnold, was meant to provide free civil pilot training and licensing to Americans in an effort to increase the potential pool of military pilots should the need occur before the United States became involved in World War II. Only 20 students from more than 100 applicants were selected at NATC for the training program, and Graham was one of them. He was a student leader, interested in acting and serving as treasurer of the school’s Sphinx Club. When the opportunity arose to continue training for military pilot experience at the Tuskegee Army Air Field, Graham applied and was accepted. He graduated on July 3, 1942, earning his wings as a 2nd Lt. with class 42-F-SE. Graham would marry Annie D. Valentine on October 30, 1943 in Weldon, North Carolina.

From left to right on graduation day, Saturday, August 4, 1945 at Moton Field, Tuskegee Institute and the Tuskegee Army Air Field (TAAF), Tuskegee, Alabama are: Rogers Mae Powell Smith-Evans of Raleigh and Wake, County, North Carolina. Rogers Mae was then the spouse of Flight Officer Reginald Vinson Smith, a Flight Officer and graduate of TAAF Class 45-E-SE, Reginald Vinson Smith, T70226 of Ahoskie, Hertford County and Buckland Plantation, Gates County, North Carolina; First Lieutenant and graduate of TAAF Class 42-F-SE, Friday, July 3, 1942, Graham “Peep Sight” Smith, 0790465 of Ahoskie, Hertford County and Buckland Plantation, Gates County, North Carolina; Annie Marietta Smith-Randolph, elder-middle sister of Flight Officer Reginald Vinson Smith and 1st Lieutenant G. “Peep Sight” Smith of Ahoskie, Hertford County and Buckland Plantation, Gates County, North Carolina.
Submitted by Roger Vann Smith (Smitty), brother to Tuskegee Airmen Captain Graham Smith and brother 2nd Lt. Reginald Vinson Smith

From 1943 until 1945, 2nt Lt. Smith would serve with the 99th Fighter Squadron, and return for military service during the Korean War. During 1950 and 1951, now a Captain, Graham Smith served with the 18th Fighter Bomber Wing and the 12th Fighter Bomber Squadron. Captain Smith lost his life on April 30, 1951 near Miudong, North Korea.

Graham Smith with the 99th Fighter Squadron and crew chief. Photo courtesy Craig Huntly

According to the Korean War Veterans Honor Role, “Captain Smith was the pilot of a F-86 Sabre Jet night fighter with the 12th Fighter Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter Bomber Wing. On April 30, 1951, while on a combat mission, his aircraft received a direct hit by anti-aircraft fire, crashed and burst into flames near Miudong, Korea. He was listed as Missing in Action and was presumed dead on December 31, 1953. Captain Smith was awarded the Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Purple Heart, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.”

Brother Reginald would also join the Tuskegee Army Air Field training program graduating August 4, 1945 with class 45-E-SE. A few months later, on November 24, 1945, Reginald married Rogers Mae Powell. Sadly, a few more months later, on February 7, 1946, Flight Officer Smith would lose his life during a crash at Tuskegee during further training. An honor guard would accompany Smith’s remains back to Ahoskie for his funeral.

Two brothers. Two sacrifices for their nation. Two heroes of Ahoskie.

Researched and submitted by Nick Tenuto

Be sure to download “The Deacons’ Bench and Amen Corner“, a wonderful tribute submitted by Roger Vann Smith (Smitty), brother to Tuskegee Airmen Captain Graham and Flight Officer Reginald Vinson Smith.

Resources:

  • 1930 United States Census.
  • 1940 United States Census.
  • Ancestry.com. U.S., Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1963. Provo, Utah.
  • Ancestry.com. WWI, WWII, and Korean War Casualty Listings. Provo, Utah.
  • Daily Press. August 27, 1945.
  • Daily Press. February 15, 1946.
  • Findagrave.com.
  • Negro Agricultural and Technical College. 1939 Yearbook.
  • The National Archives at Atlanta, Georgia; Atlanta, Georgia; WWII Draft Registration Cards for North Carolina, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 339
  • The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for Virginia, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 682
  • The Pittsburg Courier. November 4, 1939.
  • The Pittsburg Courier. August 31, 1940.