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Elwin Edward Smith, Field Music Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps

Killed In Action, May 8, 1942.

USS Lexington burning during the Battle of Coral Sea, May 1942, Photo# NH 51382.
USS Lexington burning during the Battle of Coral Sea, May 1942, Photo# NH 51382.

"No man was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave." -- Calvin Coolidge

Elwin Edward Smith

Elwin E. Smith Elwin Edward Smith, Field Music Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps, 00289521, United States Marine Corps. Entered the Service from Missouri. Died: May 8, 1942. Missing in Action or Buried at Sea. Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery, Manila, Philippines. Awards: Purple Heart.     (ABMC, CCVM, DJHSP)

The Western Star, Friday, June 19, 1942.
Is First Known Casualty From Coldwater in World War II.

Last Sunday morning Mr. and Mrs. Eads E. Smith of Coldwater received word that their son, Elwin, had been killed in action on the aircraft carrier Lexington in the Coral Sea on May 8.

Following is the telegram received from Washington, D. C.

"Deeply regret to inform you that your son, field musician corporal Elwin Edward Smith, was killed in action in the performance of his duty and in the service of his country. Present situation necessitates interment temporarily in the locality where death occurred and you will be notified accordingly. Please accept my heartfelt sympathy. Letter follows. T. Holcomb, Lieut. General, U.S. Marine Corps the Commandant."

It was thought that Edwin's body was buried in Australia.

Edwin Edward Smith was born at Wilmore, Kans., Sept. 18, 1919, and at the time of his death was 22 years, 8 months and 20 days of age. In 1928 he came to Coldwater with his parents and attended the Coldwater schools, graduating with the class of 1937.

He then went to Kansas City and began work in the office of the Wolcott & Lincoln Grain Co., which position he held until 1940. In august of that year he enlisted in the Marine Corps, and after receiving training at San Diego, Calif., was assigned to the Lexington as bugler, where he continued to serve, with the exception of a furlough spent with home folks last August.

He made an excellent record, was promoted last February to the rank of field musician corporal and was in line for promotion to sergeant at the time of his death. Among his duties on board ship was that of gunner on the top deck and he was in the thick of enemy fire in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands battle where 16 of 18 attacking planes were shot down, as well as in two other sea battles before the battle of the Coral Sea.

In 1928 Elwin, together with the family, united with the Coldwater Presbyterian church and was active in Christian Endeavor work here. When he went to Kansas City he united with the Forest Avenue Baptist church and was a leader among the young people of the church. He was elected president of the B.Y.P.U. and when he left to join with the defenders of our country he was presented by the church with an engraved plague bearing the following inscription: "To Smitty in deep appreciation of his fine Christian fellowship with young people of the Forest Avenue Baptist church." While at San Diego he moved his membership to a Baptist church there and attended services whenever possible. Elwin was a devout Christian and by his example and words of help was instrumental in leading a number of his buddies to accepting God's plan in life.

Elwin is survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. E. E. Smith of Coldwater, by one sister, Mrs. Raymond Hamon of Houston, Texas, and by two brothers, both in the armed forces - Air Corps Cadet Wm. J. Smith, Randolph Field, Texas and Pvt. Rolland E. Smith, Radio School, U.S. Marine Corps, San Diego, Calif., as well as by many other relatives and a host of friends.

Elwin was one of Coldwater's finest young men and an example of America's youth at it's best. His gallantry and heroic supreme sacrifice for the sake of his beloved homeland will be an inspiration to others for many years to come.

The sorrowing relatives have the sincere sympathy of all our people.

The Western Star , July 10, 1942


A memorial service will be held at the Presbyterian church in this city next Sunday afternoon at 2:30 o'clock in honor of Corp. Elwin E. Smith, son of Mr. and Mrs. E. E. Smith of this city.

Elwin, who was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. had been assigned a battle station at one of the anti-aircraft guns on the Lexington aircraft carrier and was killed in action during the battle of the Coral Sea, at which time the Lexington was sunk.

The service will be in charge of the pastor, Rev. Geo. H. DeBoer. The American Legion and ex-service men will attend in a body and many of our citizens will join in paying tribute to this fine young man - the first Coldwater casualty of the present war.

The Western Star, July 17, 1942


The Presbyterian church in this city was nearly filled last Sunday afternoon at the memorial service held for Elwin Smith, a marine who was among the causalities on the Lexington airplane carrier in the Coral Sea battle on May 8. Elwin is the son of Mr. and Mrs. E. E. Smith of this city. Miss Jane Stewart, a member of Elwin's graduating class in Coldwater high school, sang the "Marines Song" and Ward H. Butcher, former Boy Scout district chairman, told of the high ideals of Scouting, all of the attributes of which Elwin possessed.

A boy's quartet composed of Karl Ehrlich, J. P. Scholle, Calvin Arnold and Karl Seyfrit, sang "America The Beautiful." Rev. M. M. Anspaugh gave the American Legion's ceremonial tribute to a fallen hero, and Howard Sandberg played a cornet solo, "A Dream."

The pastor, Rev. Geo. H. DeBoer, who was in charge of the program, made a fine address on "Hallmarks of Heroism." His remarks and quotations from associates of Elwin in Kansas City brought out the sterling Christian character and gallant heroism which made Elwin's life an outstanding one. The American Legion attended in a body. The program was a most impressive one. Mrs. A. A. White presided at the organ.

The Western Star, August 21, 1942

Elwin E. Smith of Coldwater Is Given Posthumous Award

Mr. and Mrs. Eads E. Smith of Coldwater recently received from the commanding officer of the U.S.S. Lexington the following posthumous commendation of their son, Elwin E. Smith, for outstanding devotion to duty. Also a letter from Lt. Col. in the Marine Corps. accompanying the commendation. The letter and commendation follow:

July 30, 1942.
My Dear Mrs. Smith:
      I am directed by the Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps, to forward to you the enclosed letter of Commendation, posthumously awarded your son, the late Field Music Corporal Elwin E. Smith, U.S.M.C., by the Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. LEXINGTON for courage and outstanding devotion to duty during the battle of the Coral Sea, May 8, 1942.
      The Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps. noted with gratification this gallant conduct of your son.
      A copy of the enclosed letter of commendation will be made a part of your son's permanent record in this headquarters.
Sincerely yours,
JOHN DIXON, Lieut. Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps.

From: The Commanding Officer.
To: Elwin E. Smith, Field Musician Corp.
Subject: Commendation For Outstanding Devotion to Duty. (Posthumous)

1. During the Battle of the Coral Sea, on May 8, 1942, he displayed outstanding devotion to duty and courage as a member of the crew of the U.S.S. Lexington. His fine conduct and the manner in which he performed his duties, contributed greatly to the victory achieved by United States naval forces in this battle.

2. As a member of the crew of Number Two Anti-Aircraft Battery he has been commended by his superior officers as follows: "They remained at their posts efficiently performing assigned duties during strafing, explosions of four torpedoes in the near vicinity of the battery, and after an aerial bomb had exploded and fired a locker of heavy ammunition at the battery. They extinguished the fire, policed the battery and readied the only remaining serviceable gun for further defense of the ship. As a result of their actions they efficiently assisted in the defense of the LEXINGTON by fast accurate fire under extremely difficult circumstances, were quickly prepared for further defense and thereby set an example of courage and devotion to the duty of the highest order."

3. His loyal and courageous conduct are in accordance with the best traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Battle of the Coral Sea, 7-8 May 1942 -- Overview and Special Image Selection

USS Lexington (CV-2, Originally CC-1), 1927-1942

The above news articles were transcribed for this site by Shirley Brier.

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