By: Samuel J. Cox Rear Adm., USN (retired) Director of Naval History, Curator for the Navy Director, Naval History and Heritage Command
It is with deep regret I inform you of the passing of Rear Admiral Carlton Bruce Smith, Supply Corps, U.S. Navy (Retired) on August 29, 2020 at age 96. Bruce entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1943 and served as a Supply Corps Officer until his retirement in 1979 as the Commander Naval Logistics Pacific/CINCPACFLT Fleet Supply Officer. He was awarded a Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V” as Assistant Combat Information Center Officer on heavy cruiser Toledo (CA 133) during the amphibious landings at Inchon during the Korean War. He was also the Executive Officer/Commanding Officer of Naval Supply Depot, Subic Bay in 1968-1970 providing around-the-clock support to Navy and Marine operations during the Vietnam War.
Bruce entered the U.S. Naval Academy with the wartime accelerated class of 1947, graduating in June 1946. He played in the backfield of the football team. According to the Lucky Bag entry, “Smitty” was a very hard worker who “burned the candle at both ends” to get through “juice” (Electrical Engineering) and math, which would be ironic given some of his jobs later in his career, when he was an expert in both. Upon commissioning, Ensign Smith first reported to NAS Jacksonville, Fla. for instruction, followed in September 1946 by additional instruction at the Naval Radar Training School, St. Simons Island, Calif. in Combat Information Center (CIC) Operations. In March 1947, Ensign Smith reported to the light cruiser Wilkes-Barre (CL 103) as Assistant Division Officer for a Goodwill Cruise to England and Norway. In August 1947 he reported to the Naval School, Academy and College Preparatory, at Bainbridge Md., as a mathematics instructor. In April 1949, Ensign Smith reported to the Naval Air Basic Command at NAS Pensacola for flight training.
In June 1950, Lieutenant (junior grade) Smith reported to the heavy cruiser Toledo (CA 133) as Assistant CIC officer. Toledo had just returned from a Far East deployment when she was given ten days to turn around and head to Korea in response to the North Korea invasion. Toledo arrived in time for her 8-inch guns to be instrumental in blunting the Communist drive and preventing the Pusan perimeter from collapsing. Toledo then supported the amphibious assault at Inchon, sailing through mined waters into the harbor to provide pre-landing bombardment, followed by direct support to the U.S. Marine landing. During this period, Toledo executed three deep bombardments and 286 specific fire missions. Lt.j.g. Smith was awarded a Navy Commendation Medal with combat “V.” He served aboard Toledo for two complete Korean War deployments; Toledo was subject to hostile shore battery fire during the second deployment with near misses but no hits. In August 1952, Lieutenant Smith reported as Assistant Operations Officer on the destroyer Wedderburn (DD 684) just in time for her second full deployment to the Korean War, providing naval gunfire support, escort and plane guard for the carrier task force (TF-77) interspersed with Taiwan Straits patrols.
On September 21, 1953 Lt. Smith received his transfer to the Supply Corps, reporting for instruction at the Naval Supply Corps School, Athens, Ga. in December 1953. In June 1954 he was assigned as the Material Division Officer at NAS Patuxent River, Md.. This was followed in August 1956 by duty as Supply Officer for attack cargo ship Washburn (AKA 108) for Western Pacific deployments.
Promoted to lieutenant commander in March 1958, Lt. Cmdr. Smith reported in October 1958 to the staff of Commander Amphibious Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet as Assistant Force Supply Officer. He then attended the Naval War College, graduating in June 1962 and was promoted to commander in July 1962. Cmdr. Smith then served on the staff of Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe as Supply Plans and Program Officer. In June 1965, Cmdr. Smith was assigned as the Officer-in-Charge, Nuclear Weapons Supply Annex, Naval Supply Center Norfolk, Va. In July 1967 he reported as a student to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Ft. McNair, Washington, D.C., was promoted to captain in August 1967 and graduated in June 1968.
In June 1968, Capt. Smith assumed duty as Executive Officer, U.S. Naval Supply Depot, Subic Bay, Luzon, Republic of Philippines for a strenuous three year tour of continuous around-the-clock support to the SEVENTH Fleet carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin conducting strikes in North Vietnam as well as ships on the gunline and other Navy and Marine Corps operations during the Vietnam War. Capt. Smith assumed duty as the Commanding Officer in June and July 1970. The command was awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation and Capt. Smith was awarded a Meritorious Service Medal.
From September to December 1970, Capt. Smith attended the Advanced Management Course at Harvard. He then served as the Director, Activities Management Division, Office of the Deputy Commander, Supply Operations and Fleet Support at Naval Supply Systems Command, Washington, D.C. with additional duty as Assistant Deputy Commander, Supply Operations and Fleet Support. In July 1972 Capt. Smith assumed command of the Navy Electronics Supply Office, Great Lakes, Ill.
In July 1973, he was designated a rear admiral for duty in a billet commensurate with that rank and was assigned to the Naval Supply Systems Command, Washington, D.C. as Deputy Commander for Supply Operations. He was promoted to rear admiral on July 1, 1974. In August 1974, Rear Adm. Smith assumed command of the Defense Personnel Support Center, Philadelphia, PA. In June 1975, Rear Adm. Smith reported for his last tour as Commander, Naval Logistics Pacific, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii with additional duty as Fleet Supply Officer for Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet. He retired on July 1, 1979.
Rear Adm. Smith’s awards include the Meritorious Service Medal (2), Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V,” Meritorious Unit Commendation, China Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal (Asia), National Defense Service Medal (2), Korean Service Medal (with 6 stars), Korean Presidential Unit Citation, and United Nations Service Medal.
Following his retirement from active duty Rear Adm. Smith served as a volunteer with the Navy Retiree Office at Pearl Harbor starting in 1986. He logged more than 5,100 hours assisting fellow retirees, their families and survivors from all branches of the military services. He also tutored many children and students of all ages in mathematics; was the resident subject-matter-expert and instructor for monthly Military Family Support Center classes on Survivor Benefit Programs; and frequently provided casualty assistance to Retirees and their survivors. In addition he assisted the Honolulu Police Department as a Volunteer Special Enforcement Officer providing over-watch for violators of Disabled Parking statutes. The Meritorious Public Service Award was presented to Rear Adm. C. Bruce Smith on November 3, 2012 for exceptional meritorious service as a public servant and military retiree. The medal and certificate was issued by Admiral Cecil D. Haney, Commander Pacific Fleet, and presented by Rear Admiral Fernandez Ponds, Commander Navy Region Hawaii, before an audience of about 200 on Joint Base Pearl Harbor –Hickam. Rear Adm. Smith spent 26 years in public service out of uniform culminating his illustrious career as the Director Emeritus of the Pearl Harbor Navy Retired Activities Office in March of 2012. He was also a member of the Hawaii State Chapter of MOAA, serving as Chairman or Chairman Emeritus 10 years. Rear Adm. Smith was married to his wife Cal for 74 years, who sadly passed away in June 2020.
World War II was over before Bruce’s academy class graduated but he wound up in the thick of naval action during the Korean War aboard Toledo and Wedderburn, with three complete deployments into the combat zone. As the Assistant CIC Officer, he played a significant role in the Toledo’s action in support of the desperate last-ditch defense of the Pusan Perimeter and then as Toledo audaciously went into the harbor at INCHON to blast North Korean defenses (which required a lengthy daylight run through constricted waters and constrained time, due to extreme tidal variations). Both Toledo and Wedderburn conducted numerous shore bombardments and on-call fire support missions, protecting U.S. and United Nations troops, throughout the war. Transferring to the Supply Corps in 1953, he took on one tough job after another and excelled everywhere he went – Western Pacific, Europe, OIC of a Nuclear Weapons Supply Annex, setting up for a truly stellar performance as the XO/CO of the Supply Depot in Subic Bay at a time when Task Force 77 carriers on Yankee Station and other SEVENTH Fleet units were expending prodigious amounts of supplies, requiring continuous support from the Supply Depot, earning him a Meritorious Service Medal (at that time comparatively rare) and the command a Meritorious Unit Citation (at that time rare for a shore command). His toughest assignments were probably those near the end of his career as he led key positions in the Supply Corps in the post-Vietnam doldrums, where the U.S. Navy was short on funding and supplies, when every ship deployment was a struggle to get ready on time. Nevertheless, he got it done, and his efforts set the stage for better days in the 1980’s. As a leader, he was known as “the real deal.” There are no doubt many in the Supply Corps who emulated his example of selfless service, a legacy that lives on in the Supply Corps today and makes the U.S. Navy the best supplied in the world, which is no easy feat. The Navy and the nation should remember his dedication and accomplishments on active duty and in distinguished public service with profound gratitude, for he truly made a difference.
Rest in Peace Admiral Smith.