Smith, Walter Bedell “Beetle”

Back to all people

- Medals

Distservmedal.jpgDistservmedal.jpgNavyDSM.pngUs legion of merit legionnaire.pngBronze Star medal.jpgNationalsecuritymedal.jpeg
united statesArmyGeneral

Smith, Walter Bedell “Beetle”, born 05-10-1895 in Indianapolis, Indiana, the eldest of two sons of William Long Smith, a silk buyer for the Pettis Dry Goods Company and his wife Ida Francis née Bedell, who worked for the same company. Smith was known as Bedell from childhood. From an early age he was nicknamed “Beetle”, or occasionally “Beedle” or “Boodle”. Smith’s work during the 1913 flood led to his nomination for officer training in 1917 and he was sent to the Officer Candidate Training Camp at Fort Benjamin Harrison. Upon graduation on 27-11-1917, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Smith here with General Jacob Devers on the left,   was then posted to the newly formed Company A, 1st Battalion, 39th Infantry, part of the 4th Division, nicknamed “Ivy Division”  at Camp Greene, North Carolina. The 4th Division embarked for Europe, then embroiled in World War I, from Hoboken, New Jersey, on 09-05-1918, reaching Brest, France, on 23 May. After training with the British and French Armies, the 4th Division entered the line in June 1918, joining the Aisne-Marne Offensive on 18-07-1918.  Smith was wounded  by shell fragments in an attack two days later. Smith was returned to the United States for service with the War Department General Staff and was assigned to the Military Intelligence Division. In September 1918, he was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the Regular Army. He was then sent to the newly formed 379th Infantry as its intelligence officer. This regiment was part of the 95th Division, nickname “Iron Men of Metz” , based at Camp Sherman, Ohio. The 95th Division was disbanded following the Armistice with Germany in November 1918, and in February 1919 Smith was posted to Camp Dodge, Iowa, where he was involved with the disposal of surplus equipment and supplies. In March 1919 he was transferred to the 2nd Infantry, a regular unit based at Camp Dodge, remaining there until November 1919, when it moved to Camp Sherman. When General George Catlett Marshall

  became the Army’s Chief of Staff in September 1939, he brought Smith to Washington, DC, to be the Assistant to the Secretary of the General Staff. The Secretary of the General Staff was primarily concerned with records, paperwork and the collection of statistics, but also performed a great deal of analysis, liaison and administration. Pa Watson died 61 on 20-02-1945, he suffered a fatal cerebral hemorrhage and died at sea. One of Smith’s duties was liaison with Major General Edwin “Pa” Watson,   the Senior Military Aide to President Franklin D. Roosevelt Smith was promoted to lieutenant colonel on 04-05-1941 and then colonel on 30-08-1941. On 1 September, the Secretary of the General Staff, Colonel Orlando Ward, Col._Orlando_Ward he died age 80, on 04-02-1972, was given command of the 1st Armored Division, nickname “Old Ironsides”  and Smith became Secretary of the General Staff. Casualties of the 1st Armored: total battle casualties: 7,096killed in action: 1,194wounded in action: 5,168missing in action: 216 and prisoner of war: 518

When Major General Dwight Eisenhower  was appointed commander of the European Theater of Operations in June 1942, he requested that Smith be sent from Washington as his chief of staff. Smith’s record as a staff officer and his proven ability to work harmoniously with the British made him a natural choice for the post.   Reluctantly, Marshall acceded to this request, and Smith took over as chief of staff at Allied Forces Headquarters (AFHQ) on 15 September 1942. Smith had to conduct another set of surrender negotiations, that of the German armed forces, in May 1945. Smith met with the representatives of the German Armed Forces high command, Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, Colonel General Alfred Jodl     and Admiral, Hans-Georg von Friedeburg.  Once again, Strong acted as translator. Smith took a hard line, threatening that unless terms were accepted, the Allies would seal the front, forcing the remaining Germans into Soviet hands, but made some concessions regarding a ceasefire before the surrender came into effect. On 7 May, Smith signed the surrender document, along with Susloparov and the French representative, Major General François Sevez,  he died in a hunting accident, age 56, on 29-02-1948. In 1955, Smith was approached to perform the voice-over and and opening scene for the movie To Hell And Back (1955), which was based on the autobiography of Audie Murphy

 . He accepted, and had small parts in the movie, most notably in the beginning, where he was dressed in his old service uniform.

Death and burial ground of Smith, Walter Bedell “Beetle”.

Walter Bedell Smith suffered a heart attack on 09-08-1961 at his home in Washington, DC, and died in the ambulance on the way to Walter Reed Army Hospital.

   Although entitled to a Special Full Honor Funeral, at the request of his widow Mary Eleanor Smith, a simple joint service funeral was held, patterned after the one given to Marshall in 1959. She selected a grave site for her husband in Section 7 of Arlington National Cemetery close to Marshall’s grave. Close by in Section 7, the Air Corps Lieutenant General, Head of the American Air Force, Frank Andrewst, the Major General, Commander 35th Division, nickname “Sante Fe Division” , Paul Baade, General, Chief of Staff of Sixth Army, nicknamed  “Alamo Force” , George Decker, General, Commander 85th Infantry Division, Wade “Ham” Haislip  Major General, Commander 1st Division Northwest, Clift Andrus, and First Allied Airborne Army , U.S. 2* Air Force Lieutenant General, Operation “Market Garden”, Louis Brereton,




Share on :