America's Heroes: Medal of Honor Recipients from the Civil War to Afghanistan

By James H. Willbanks | Go to book overview

Smith, Paul R.

Born: September 24, 1969

Died: April 4, 2003

Home State: Florida

Service: Army

Conflict: Iraq

Age at Time of Award: 33

Paul Ray Smith was born in El Paso, Texas, on September 24, 1969, but grew up primarily in Tampa, Florida, where he moved at the age of nine. After graduating from Tampa Bay Technical High School in 1989, he joined the Army. He completed basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and became a combat engineer. Smith served in both Germany and the United States—with the 82nd Engineer Battalion in Bamberg, Germany; in the 1st Engineer Battalion at Fort Riley, Kansas; in the 317Thengineer Battalion at Fort Benning, Georgia; and in the 9Thengineer Battalion in Schweinfurt, Germany. While in Germany, he met and married his wife, Birgit, and they had two children.

Smith served in Iraq during the Persian Gulf War and in Bosnia. In 1999, Smith joined the 11Thengineer Battalion based at Fort Stewart, Georgia, which was deployed to Kosovo in May 2001.

By March 2003, Smith, by then a sergeant first class with 14 years of service, was a member of Bravo Company, 11Thengineer Battalion, of the 3rd Infantry Division. Smith and his unit deployed to Kuwait as part of the buildup for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Crossing the border into Iraq on March 19, Smith’s unit was assigned to support the 7th Infantry Regiment’s 2nd Battalion, which was advancing toward Saddam International Airport in Baghdad. They advanced more than 300 kilometers in the first 48 hours of the war. Passing through the Karbala Gap, the battalion encountered resistance on its way to the airport on April 4, 2003, and the fight resulted in the taking of a number of Iraqi prisoners.

To hold these prisoners, Smith and his unit had to create a makeshift prisonerof-war camp. He and his men employed an earthmover to create a hole in a nearby enclosed courtyard with a tower. Just outside the gate of the courtyard was a companysized Iraqi force, with perhaps as many as 100 Iraqi Republican Guards, in entrenched positions. Smith, along with two platoons, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and three armored personnel carriers (APCs), attacked the Iraqi position. During the fighting, the Bradley was damaged and ran low on ammunition and fuel, requiring it to withdraw. The APCs were hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and a mortar round, injuring three crew members whom Smith helped to safety.

Given the withdrawal of the Bradley and the damage inflicted on the APCs, Smith could have ordered a partial withdrawal, but he instead chose to continue to fight lest the Iraqis overrun his position and take a nearby aid station treating battle casualties. Some Iraqis, meanwhile, were able to take up position in the tower, and they began firing down into the courtyard on the Americans. Smith then took charge of one of the damaged APCs and used its.50 caliber machine gun to fire on the tower and the Iraqis in the nearby trenches. Meanwhile, a team under 1st Sgt. Tim Campbell attacked the tower. In order for Campbell to accomplish this, Smith had to place himself in an exposed position and provide covering fire. As Campbell’s men made their move against the rear of the tower, Smith was shot in the neck and head and killed instantly. His flak jacket had been hit 13 times.

Although Paul Smith’s actions were immediately hailed as heroic, the process of recognizing them with the Medal of Honor took several years. Lt. Col. Thomas Smith, Smith’s battalion commander, first recommended him for the Medal of Honor in May 2003. Two years later, Smith’s bravery was recognized with the award of the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and the Medal of Honor, which President George W. Bush presented to Smith’s son David at a White House ceremony on April 4, 2005. This was the first Medal of Honor awarded for the Iraq War.

Michael Beauchamp


Further Reading

Collier, Peter, and Nick Del Calzo. Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor beyond the Call of Duty. New York: Artisan, 2006.

Keegan, John. The Iraq War. New York: Knopf, 2004.

“Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith.” Soldiers 65, no. 3 (March 2010): 4–5.

-319-

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America's Heroes: Medal of Honor Recipients from the Civil War to Afghanistan
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Entries ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Preface xv
  • Introduction xvii
  • Adams, Lucian 1
  • Baca, John P. 2
  • Bacon, Nicky Daniel 4
  • Baker, Vernon 6
  • Baldwin, Frank D. 8
  • Ballard, Donald E. 11
  • Barfoot, Van T. 13
  • Barnum, Harvey C., Jr 14
  • Barrett, Carlton W. 16
  • Basilone, John 18
  • Benavidez, Roy P. 20
  • Birkhimer, William E. 22
  • Blake, Robert 24
  • Bleak, David B. 25
  • Boyington, Gregory 27
  • Brady, Patrick Henry 29
  • Britt, Maurice L. 30
  • Brown, Bobbie E. 32
  • Bucha, Paul William 34
  • Burke, Lloyd L. 36
  • Bush, Robert Eugene 38
  • Butler, Smedley Darlington 40
  • Butterfield, Daniel 42
  • Cafferata, Hector a., Jr 43
  • Carney, William H. 45
  • Cavaiani, Jon R. 48
  • Chamberlain, Joshua L. 49
  • Childers, Ernest 51
  • Cody, William F. 53
  • Cohn, Abraham 55
  • Cole, Robert G. 57
  • Craft, Clarence B. 59
  • Crandall, Bruce P. 61
  • Custer, Thomas W. 63
  • Dahlgren, John Olof 65
  • Daly, Daniel Joseph 67
  • Davila, Rudolph B. 69
  • Davis, Charles W. 70
  • Davis, Raymond G. 73
  • Davis, Sammy L. 74
  • Day, George E. 76
  • Dean, William F. 78
  • Deblanc, Jefferson Joseph 79
  • Dix, Drew Dennis 81
  • Donlon, Roger Hugh C. 84
  • Donovan, William Joseph 85
  • Doolittle, James H. 87
  • Doss, Desmond T. 88
  • Dunham, Jason L. 90
  • Dunham, Russell E. 91
  • Dyess, Aquilla James 93
  • Ehlers, Walter D. 96
  • Evans, Ernest Edwin 98
  • Faith, Don C., Jr 100
  • Finn, John William 102
  • Fletcher, Frank Jack 104
  • Fluckey, Eugene Bennett 105
  • Foley, Robert F. 107
  • Foss, Joseph Jacob 109
  • Fox, John Robert 112
  • Freeman, Ed W. 113
  • Funston, Frederick 115
  • Galer, Robert Edward 117
  • García, Macario 119
  • Gonsalves, Harold 121
  • Gonzalez, Alfredo 123
  • Gordon, Gary I. 125
  • Hagemeister, Charles Chris 126
  • Harmon, Roy W. 128
  • Harrell, William George 130
  • Hatch, John P. 131
  • Hayashi, Shizuya 133
  • Hayes, Webb C. 134
  • Heard, John W. 137
  • Hendrix, James R. 139
  • Hernández, Rodolfo P. 140
  • Herrera, Silvestre S. 142
  • Hooper, Joe R. 144
  • Howard, Oliver O. 146
  • Howard, Robert L. 148
  • Inouye, Daniel K. 150
  • Irwin, Bernard J. D. 154
  • Izac, Edouard Victor Michel 155
  • Jackson, Joe M. 158
  • Jacobs, Jack H. 160
  • Joel, Lawrence 162
  • Kaufman, Benjamin 164
  • Keeble, Woodrow W. 166
  • Kelly, Charles E. 167
  • Kerrey, Joseph R. 169
  • Kisters, Gerry H. 171
  • Kouma, Ernest R. 173
  • Lang, George C. 175
  • Lemon, Peter C. 177
  • Levitow, John L. 178
  • Liteky, Angelo J. 181
  • Livingston, James E. 182
  • Lopez, Jose M. 184
  • Lucas, Jacklyn Harold 186
  • Luke, Frank, Jr 189
  • Mabry, George L., Jr 191
  • Macarthur, Arthur, Jr 193
  • Macarthur, Douglas 195
  • Mackie, John F. 198
  • Mallon, George H. 200
  • Marm, Walter Joseph, Jr 201
  • Martinez, Joe P. 203
  • McCool, Richard Miles, Jr 204
  • McGinnis, Ross A. 206
  • McGinty, John J., III 207
  • McKinney, John R. 209
  • Merli, Gino J. 211
  • Miles, L. Wardlaw 213
  • Miles, Nelson A. 214
  • Millett, Lewis L. 218
  • Miyamura, Hiroshi H. 220
  • Mize, Ola L. 223
  • Moffett, William A. 225
  • Monsoor, Michael A. 226
  • Monti, Jared C. 227
  • Munemori, Sadao S. 229
  • Munro, Douglas Albert 231
  • Murphy, Audie L. 233
  • Murphy, Michael P. 235
  • Murphy, Raymond G. 236
  • Norris, Thomas R. 238
  • Novosel, Michael J. 240
  • O’Hare, Edward Henry 243
  • O’Kane, Richard Hetherington 245
  • Okubo, James K. 246
  • Olive, Milton L., III 248
  • O’Neill, Richard W. 249
  • Page, John U. D. 251
  • Paige, Mitchell 254
  • Parker, Samuel I. 256
  • Pennypacker, Galusha 258
  • Penry, Richard A. 260
  • Pitsenbarger, William H. 262
  • Pittman, John A. 264
  • Pittman, Richard A. 265
  • Pope, Everett Parker 267
  • Pope, Thomas A. 269
  • Rascon, Alfred V. 271
  • Ray, Ronald Eric 273
  • Red Cloud, Mitchell, Jr 275
  • Rickenbacker, Edward V. 278
  • Roberts, Gordon R. 279
  • Rocco, Louis R. 281
  • Rodriguez, Joseph C. 283
  • Roosevelt, Theodore 285
  • Rosser, Ronald E. 287
  • Rubin, Tibor 289
  • Rudolph, Donald E. 291
  • Ruiz, Alejandro R. Renteria 293
  • Sakato, George T. 294
  • Salomon, Ben L. 296
  • Sandlin, Willie 298
  • Sasser, Clarence Eugene 300
  • Schofield, John M. 302
  • Shafter, William R. 303
  • Shoup, David Monroe 305
  • Shughart, Randall D. 307
  • Sickles, Daniel E. 310
  • Sijan, Lance P. 312
  • Simanek, Robert E. 313
  • Sitter, Carl L. 315
  • Smith, Andrew Jackson 317
  • Smith, Paul R. 319
  • Spurrier, Junior J. 320
  • Stockdale, James B. 322
  • Stone, James L. 324
  • Stowers, Freddie 326
  • Thornton, Michael Edwin 327
  • Thorsness, Leo K. 329
  • Titus, Calvin Pearl 332
  • Turner, George B. 333
  • Urban, Matt 335
  • Vandegrift, Alexander Archer 337
  • Vargas, Jay R. 339
  • Versace, Humbert R. 341
  • Wahlen, George Edward 343
  • Wai, Francis B. 345
  • Wainwright, Jonathan M. 347
  • Walker, Dr. Mary E. 349
  • Ware, Keith L. 350
  • Warren, Francis E. 352
  • Watson, George 353
  • Watters, Charles Joseph 354
  • Webb, Alexander S. 358
  • Wetzel, Gary George 360
  • Whiteley, Eli 362
  • Whittington, Hulon B. 363
  • Williams, Hershel Woodrow 365
  • Wilson, Louis Hugh, Jr. 367
  • Wood, Leonard 369
  • Woodfill, Samuel 372
  • York, Alvin C. 373
  • Young, Rodger W. 375
  • Zabitosky, Fred William 377
  • Zeamer, Jay, Jr. 379
  • Recipients of the Medal of Honor 381
  • Double Award Recipients 487
  • Medals of Honor Awarded by Conflict and Service 489
  • Bibliography 493
  • Index 511
  • About the Editor 529
  • Contributors 531
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