Vice Admiral Leighton W. Smith Jr., USN (covered)

Leighton W. Smith Jr., U.S. Navy (Retired) graduated from the academy in 1962 and shortly afterward married Dorothy McDowell. His recollections of their family life are interspersed throughout the oral history.  Smith's early commissioned service was on board the landing craft repair ship USS Krishna (ARL-38), flight training, and in 1964–65 as an instructor in air intercept control at Glynco, Georgia. All told, Smith made three combat deployments to Vietnam, culminating in 1972 with his successful attack on the Thanh Hoa Bridge in North Vietnam. 

He flew A-4 Skyhawks and later A-7 Corsairs. Squadron duty included Attack Squadron 44 (VA-44); Attack Squadron 81 (VA-81); Attack Squadron 22 (VA-22); Attack Squadron 174 (VA-174); Attack Squadron 82 (VA-82). In 1975–77 he was XO and then CO of Attack Squadron 86 (VA-86). From 1968 to 1970 he was a production test pilot at the Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV) plant in Dallas. In 1977–78 he commanded Carrier Air Wing 15 (CVW-15); in 1978–80 served in the Navy Military Personnel Command; and in 1980–81 was Commander Light Attack Wing One. He commanded the replenishment oiler USS Kalamazoo (AOR-6) in 1982–83; served briefly on the staff of ComNavAirLant in 1983-84, and commanded the aircraft carrier USS America (CV-66) in 1984–85. 

Smith was a member of the Strategic Studies Group at Newport in 1985-86. As a flag officer, he was director of tactical readiness on the OpNav staff; commanded Carrier Group Six, based in Mayport, Florida; and served briefly in 1989 as acting Commander Cruiser-Destroyer Group 12.  From 1989 to 1991 he was operations officer for the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany; served from 1991 to 1994 as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Plans, Policy and Operations (OP-06, later N3/5); and served 1994–96 as NATO's Commander in Chief Allied Forces Southern Europe and Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe. 

In the NATO command he ordered air strikes that led to the conclusion of the Dayton Accords to stop fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in 1995–96 commanded the multinational Implementation Force that carried out the provisions of the Dayton agreement.

Articles by Leighton W. Smith Jr.

Vice Admiral Leighton W. Smith Jr., USN (covered)

‘The Defining Moment in My Life’

By Admiral Leighton W. Smith Jr., U.S. Navy (Retired)
February 2019
In the first of ten oral history interviews with Paul Stillwell, Admiral Smith described a lesson in motivation and leadership he received when he was a plebe at the Academy ...