by his grandson
Lieutenant Commander Gene Smith was a pilot assigned to Attack Squadron 155 onboard the USS CONSTELLATION. On June 27, 1966, LCDR Smith was flying the number three aircraft in a flight of four A4 "Skyhawk" aircraft in an attack against numerous large barges in North Vietnam.
The division rolled in with about a 5 second interval between aircraft. Each pilot made an attack on a different barge. After the leader made his attack and started to turn right and then left, he observed a large fireball on the ground similar to napalm. It was about 1/2 mile west of the canal in which the barges were located.
One of the other pilots stated that he did not have LCDR Smith in sight. They initiated a radio check, but Smith did not respond. The remaining flight made two circles of the fire and observed a large hole in the ground near some houses. There appeared to be light gray or white pieces of metal scattered in the vicinity of the hole. No parachute was seen, nor was any radio transmission heard.
Rescue combat air patrol aircraft conducted an airborne search of the crash area for two hours, but could pick up no trace of LCDR Smith. Because his aircraft was not observed from the time he commenced his attack run until it hit the ground, it was the belief of the other pilots that his aircraft was probably hit by enemy fire and crashed.
Gene Smith was placed in Missing In Action status. On 16 January 1974 a Presumptive Finding of Death was issued by the Secretary of the Navy.
In December 1988, the Vietnamese "discovered" the remains of Gene Smith and returned them to U.S. control. Smith had been promoted to the rank of Commander while he was missing.