Mr. Clifford Burkhalter Smith passed away on Wednesday, November 23, 2022, at The Chaffee Nursing Center in Chaffee, Missouri. He was 100 years & ten months old.
Dr. Charles Burkhalter, Clifford’s maternal grandfather, delivered Clifford in Higbee, Missouri, on February 7, 1922 . He was raised in the home of his father, Dr. Carl C. Smith, and mother, Toinette Burkhalter, in the small town of Madison, Missouri, until aged 9.
Between ages 5 thru 9 years old Clifford had his own pony named Ruby and rode unchaperoned with a childhood friend who also had a pony. They roamed over a ten mile area of rural pastures around Madison, Missouri. They took their ponies into and out of ponds in the summer time.
Ruby stayed in Dr CC Smith’s barn along with the Doctor’s horse. The horse was needed for house calls when Clifford’s doctor father couldn’t use his 1925 Model T Tudor Sedan Ford on muddy or frozen roads.
In 1931, Dr. Smith, his wife Clifford, younger brother Bill, and older sister Marilyn moved ten miles west to Moberly, Missouri.
Clifford was quite proud to call Moberly his hometown. There, in the 1930’s, Cliff grew up as a smart, exemplary small-town boy working diligently on his studies and participating in sports, particularly football. During his senior year in high school and at Moberly Junior College he was class president and played and excelled at end and quarterback on the football teams.
(He wore a leather helmet) Clifford enrolled at Missouri University at Columbia for his 3rd and 4th year of college, studying engineering.
Clifford enlisted in the Army Air Force immediately after Pearl Harbor. He was called up for active duty two weeks before graduation at MU in early 1943, at the height of US engagement in WWII. At that moment, college administration granted Clifford his BS degree in Mechanical Engineering along with best wishes and good luck in the military.
Clifford excelled within a highly technical Air Force training. So much, that he was sent to Yale University to train for the engineering and operation of the newest, largest and most sophisticated aircraft of the war: The B-29 Bomber. At the end of his training, Clifford had earned Flight Engineers Wings and a 2nd Lieutenant Officer’s Commission. He was sent to Kansas to help train his B-29 bomber crew. In November, 1944, the crew deployed to Saipan, in the Central Pacific. There, he and his crew served in the 20th Air Force Mariana’s Bombing Campaign against the Japanese Homeland.
As Flight Engineer on the B-29 named “Pee-Wee”, Clifford was responsible for keeping the aircraft safely flying through 31 straight missions to Japan and back to Saipan. A roundtrip mission was 12 to 16 hours of flying nonstop in the air. This number of non-abort missions was extraordinary for the operation of this new, unproven, and very often unreliable B-29. For this exceptional performance within the lethal combat over Japan, 1st Lieutenant Clifford B Smith was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
The first mission of the Cliff’s Saipan tour, however, was rent with disaster. Due to the mechanical failure of a fuel pump, the first “Pee-Wee” crew and aircraft were not able to keep 2 of the 4 engines running. Cliff helped the Aircraft Commander make the life and death decision to ditch – a crash landing at sea within enemy waters – during the flight back from the bombing mission. Four of the crewmembers perished. The surviving seven, including Cliff, were rescued by US Submarine SS Spearfish. During the crash, Clifford suffered an injury for which he was awarded the Purple Heart.
After completing discharge from the Army Air Force and WWII, Cliff returned to Moberly, his wife and his 6-month-old daughter, whom he had never met. Very soon, the family moved to St. Louis where Clifford worked for Ralston Purina for the next 30 years. He was titled as corporate engineer: building facilities and plants worldwide.
In the mid 1970’s Clifford left Purina to start his own business in Affton, Missouri: the C.B. Smith Company. Within this company, and later with his son beside him, Clifford worked at designing and selling products for water & wastewater treatment, an engineering specialty he learned at Purina.
He was celebrated on the day he turned 100 on Channel Five Mike Bush segment.
He was known for picking up a pastime , ” Motorcycling “ (more like an obsession)
When he turned 75 years old, he joined the Euro Motorcycle Club. He and two to four of those club members accompanied him all over the Lower 48 attending WW II 74th BombWing and the U. S. Submarine Spearfish reunions every year for the next 15 years.
During the time period when he was home he gave several presentations concerning his harrowing and sometime amusing experiences during World War II. This included high schools and Junior Colleges in the greater St. Louis area: Lindbergh High, MarQuette High, Country Day, Clayton High, Fox High, Layette High School, Rockwood School District, St. Charles Junior college, St. Louis Community College, Missouri Athletic Club, and various History Clubs.
Clifford never really retired from work and the C.B Smith Company. He continued to arrive and work at the office daily well into his 90s, almost to his final months of life.
Cliff is preceded in death by his first wife, Emma Irene; and his second wife, Ora Jean, and his long-time girlfriend and companion, World War II Nurse Nancy Bender. Cliff is survived by a daughter, three sons, six grandchildren, seven great grandchildren, one nephew, and two nieces.
A Memorial Visitation at Kutis Funeral Home in Affton, MO, on January 9th, 2023 from 10:00 am. until funeral service time at 12 noon, with Full Military Ceremony at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery at 2:00 PM are planned for Clifford Smith. Reverend Hannah Zyla of the Affton Presbyterian Church will give the eulogy.