WHO IS BRIGADIER GENERAL MELVIN M. SMITH?
Melvin Montgomery Smith was born on 9 November 1906 in either Blencoe or Onawa, Iowa; and he passed into rest on 2 July 1974 while traveling to Bohemia, California. In between those sixty-eight years was a full and varied life. Having graduated from North Central High School in Spokane, Melvin M. Smith went to Washington State University where he underwent two years of ROTC training and then served as a member of the National Guard prior to serving in the Marine Corps.
It is uncertain as to when he was commissioned in the Marine Corps, but he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on 27 November 1936 and to Captain on 7 February 1939. He was promoted to Major on 16 May 1942 and to Lieutenant Colonel on 1 April 1943. His promotion to Colonel was sometime between 1947 and 1949. He was promoted to Brigadier General upon his retirement from twenty years active and reserve service. CWO Ray “Gunner” Moon stated that it was his (General Smith’s) duty in life to promote the Marine Corps.
During his service he served on the following ships: USS McKean, USS Fuller, USS Manargo and the President Hayes. He saw service in Iceland, the South Pacific, at Camp Elliot, San Diego and several others that are not known to this editor.
This picture has been in the Navy League Musuem and our historical files. This was a dedication at the Navy/Marine Corps Reserve Center.
The above pictures were donated from Mel’s niece, Marion. Dates are unknown; however, he received his star in 1956 upon retirement.(approximately)
It is in about 1938 when Headquarters Marine Corps sent Gunnery Sergeant Gus Morgan (later WO, CWO and eventually retired as a 1st Lieutenant) to organize a reserve unit in Spokane. Melvin M. Smith started with that unit as Lieutenant. At that time the reserve unit drilled in the old Bon Marche building.
After World War II Colonel Smith was in charge of VELOX, the Naval Supply Depot located in Spokane Valley. Eventually this supply depot became the Spokane Industrial Park.
Along with his father, Claude M. Smith, Melvin founded the Spokane Presto Log Company in 1932. In addition to Lt. Morgan, other local Marines who were employed by Presto Log include (Colonel) Bob Baldwin as well as (CWO4) Ray Moon. Although not a Marine, another employee of Melvin M. Smith at Presto Log was Roy McBride, who had been a hockey player for the Spokane Flyers.
Melvin M. Smith was an owner of the Spokane Comets as well as having bought the Flyers, whom he moved to Spokane. He served as the National Vice President of the Marine Corps Reserve Officers Association, as a member of the Spokane County Control Authority, was the Direct of the National Club Association, President of the Washington Federation of Clubs, President of Wine and Food Society of Spokane, a Past President of the Spokane Club, Member of the Greater Spokane Sports Association, Spokane Industrial Park, Empire Club; he was a member of the Spokane Country Club, University Club and the Manito Golf and Country Club.
General Smith’s wife, Ruth, of Tacoma, graciously gave permission for the Marine Corps League Detachment to use his name. General Smith’s sword is used at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball for the official cutting of the cake. The ceremonial first piece of cake is given to the Guest of Honor, who in turn gives a piece to the Oldest Marine present, who then gives it to the Youngest Marine present. This represents the passing of our traditions and legacies of being Marines.
The editor gratefully acknowledges the information provided by Doug Shurtleff, Ray Moon and JF Goffinet.