Lowell Smith

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Lowell Herbert Smith
Smith and Richter cropped.jpg
Born October 8, 1892
Santa Barbara, California
Died 4 November 1945(1945-11-04) (aged 53)
Tucson, Arizona
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army Air Service
United States Army Air Corps
Years of service 1917–1945
Rank Colonel
Battles/wars Mexican Revolution
World War II
Awards Distinguished Flying Cross
Distinguished Service Medal
Mackay Trophy

Lowell Herbert Smith (October 8, 1892—November 4, 1945) was a pioneer American airman who piloted the first airplane to receive a complete mid-air refueling (along with Lt. John P. Richter) on June 27, 1923, and later set an endurance record of 37 hours on August 28, both in a De Havilland DH-4B. Smith also piloted the Douglas World Cruiser Chicago, which along with one other made the first aerial circumnavigation in 1924. Smith held 16 records for military aircraft in speed, endurance and distance.[1] He was awarded the best achievement in flight Mackay Trophy twice.[2]


Smith was born October 8, 1892 and first became an aviator for the Mexican Army (1915), but in 1917 joined the Army Air Service. In 1919 he found himself able to participate in the Great Transcontinental Air Race. However, on the evening of October 15 his aircraft was destroyed by fire when lanterns being used by mechanics ignited a wing. Smith received permission to continue the race if he could find a replacement aircraft. Prospects seemed dim until Major Carl Andrew Spaatz arrived on October 17. It took only a little pleading before Spaatz agreed to turn over his plane to Smith. Going on to conquer wind and weather, Smith became the first West Coast flier to complete the round trip when he arrived in San Francisco on October 21.[3] In 1924, Smith then a lieutenant, was made flight commander of the mission to be the first to fly around the world.[4] In 1936, Smith was appointed to the War Department Board for standardizing airplane design and procurement procedures. Under his guidance from February 1942 to March 1943, Davis-Monthan became the top training base for B-17 and B-24 crews during World War II.

Smith led the first expedition of flight around the world. Another flyer began leading the flight from Seattle, but crashed his plane in Alaska, therefore, Smith took over leadership of the expedition. During the stopover in Thailand he developed dysentery from which he did not recover until the expeditionary flight was completed.

Smith died from injuries suffered when he fell from a horse in the Catalina Foothills, Arizona, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Lowell H. Smith Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona was named after him.


  1. ^ "Lowell H. Smith; Colonel, United States Army". Arlington National Cemetery.net. Retrieved June 11, 2010. 
  2. ^ http://airandspace.si.edu/explore-and-learn/multimedia/detail.cfm?id=6602
  3. ^ William M. Leary. Billy Mitchell and the Great Transcontinental Air Race of 1919
  4. ^ National Museum of the Air Force Factsheet for May 2, 1924

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