Homer Smith was born on February 6, 1926, in Alma, West Virginia. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on November 9, 1943, and entered the U.S. Naval Academy on July 22, 1945. Smith graduated with a commission as an Ensign on June 3, 1949, and then served aboard the destroyer USS Frank E. Evans (DD-754) from July to December 1949, and then on the destroyer USS Hank (DD-702) from December 1949 to July 1950. He then entered Flight School at NAS Pensacola, Florida, in August 1950, and was designated a Naval Aviator in August 1951. After additional training, Smith was assigned to VF-33, where he flew the F9F-6 Cougar from January 1952 to October 1954, when he transferred to NAS Akron, Ohio. In July 1956, LT Smith entered the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, California, followed by service as an instructor with the Navy ROTC unit at the University of Southern California from June 1958 to July 1959. He then joined VA-125 in July 1959, followed by VA-155, flying the A4D Skyhawk, from January 1960 to December 1961, when he joined the staff of Carrier Air Group 15 (CVG-15). LCDR Smith next attended Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island, from August 1962 to July 1963, followed by service as an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy from July 1963 to January 1965. He then joined VA-125 at NAS Lemoore, California, in February 1965, before taking command of VA-212 later that year. CDR Smith began flying combat missions in Southeast Asia off the aircraft carrier USS Hancock (CVA-19) in December 1965, and finished his first tour in July 1966. He returned for his second tour in February 1967 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31), and was forced to eject over North Vietnam while flying his 200th combat mission, and was captured on May 20, 1967. Capt Smith was tortured to death by his North Vietnamese captors on May 21, 1967, and his remains were returned to the United States on March 13, 1974. He was buried at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland.
His Navy Cross Citation reads:
For extraordinary heroism on 19 and 20 May 1967, while serving as Commanding Officer of Attack Squadron TWO HUNDRED TWELVE, embarked in USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA-31), during aerial attacks on two strategically important and heavily defended thermal power plants in Hanoi and Bac Giang, North Vietnam. As strike leader in each of these actions against the enemy, Captain (then Commander) Smith was faced with adverse weather and difficult terrain, formidable opposition from the enemy, and the necessity for violent, evasive maneuvering. Despite these obstacles, he expertly led his strike groups in executing brilliantly successful attacks which substantially hindered the enemy in his efforts to make war. By his heroic actions, superb airmanship, and inspiring devotion to duty throughout, Captain Smith reflected great credit upon himself and his squadron, and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.