|Lt. Smith Before WWI
Holland McTyeire Smith became a notable leader and innovator in amphibious warfare during the interwar period. He would later command Marine forces in the Pacific Theater during the Second World War culminating with the conquest of Iwo Jima. He was highly controversial, criticizing the sister services and the Marine Corps at times. He earned the nickname "Howling Mad" Smith and was known to use his fierce temper as weapon.
Born in Seale, Alabama, in 1882 Smith graduated from Auburn University in 1901 and then received a law degree from the University of Alabama in 1903. He joined the United States Marine Corps as a second lieutenant on 20 March 1905.
He was military commander of Puerto Plata on Santo Domingo's north coast when the United States entered the First World War in April 1917. Within a month Capt. Smith and his company were ordered to Philadelphia where the 5th Regiment was being formed for service in France.
|Maj. Smith on the Western Front
He sailed with the first convoy of American troops in mid-June 1917 in command of the 8th Machine Gun Company. Early in 1918 he became, as a major, brigade adjutant of the 4th Marine Brigade. The brigade saw action in a quiet section of trenches near Verdun and then was plunged into the battle for Belleau Wood. Major Smith's role in all this was not dramatic. He had moved from being brigade adjutant to brigade liaison officer. As such he was next assigned to the staff of I Corps, First Army. From this perspective he saw Soissons, St. Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne.
In an article, "Liaison," which appeared in the September 1919 Marine Corps Gazette, he called liaison "the nerve center of command." Much of what he called "liaison" is now called "fire support coordination." ("The artillery cannot act efficaciously unless it is in intimate liaison with the infantry which it is supporting.") After being briefly with the Army of Occupation in Germany he came home in March 1919 to duty at Marine Barracks, Norfolk, Virginia. The following year he was sent to the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island. He found it "bogged down in obsolescence," particularly in the area of amphibious warfare.
Following his graduation, he was named to the Joint Army-Navy Planning Committee, a kind of forerunner of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, headed by the Chief of Staff of the Army and the Chief of Naval Operations. The planners were already quite certain that Japan was the most likely opponent and were devoting thought to a war in the Pacific. He was the first Marine to be so assigned.
|Lt. General Smith on the Beach at Iwo Jima
Sources: Fortitude: Bulletin of the Marine Corps Historical Program, Fall 1989; WWII Database