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

Smith, Leighton W. Jr. (Snuffy), Adm., USN (Ret.)


In this account, which spans a period from working on a farm in Alabama to receiving an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II, Admiral Smith provides an unusual degree of openness in describing his career. His uncle, Admiral Harold Page Smith, was an able role model and mentor, as was Captain William Bringle, who was commandant when Leighton Smith, later known widely by the nickname "Snuffy," was a midshipman at the Naval Academy.

Young Smith 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.

Transcripts of this oral history are available in many formats including bound volumes, and digital copies.

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About this Volume

Based on ten interviews conducted by Paul Stillwell from September 2004 to March 2006. The volume contains 927 pages of interview transcript plus a comprehensive index. The transcript is copyright 2011 by the U.S. Naval Institute; the interviewee placed no restrictions on its use.