Brad Smith was born in 1939 in Youngstown, Ohio. He began taking flying lessons at age 15 and already had his private pilot's license before he enlisted in the U.S. Navy on August 31, 1961. He was later selected for Naval Cadet Flight Training where he received his commission and wings in 1964. He was assigned to Attack Squadron VA-76 in February 1965, flying off the Aircraft Carriers USS Roosevelt, America, and Enterprise. Smith began flying combat missions in the A-4 Skyhawk in November 1965. He was forced to eject over North Vietnam while flying his 77th combat mission on March 25, 1966. The North Vietnamese captured LT Smith and held him as a Prisoner of War for the next 2,516 days, until his release during Operation Homecoming on February 12, 1973. After his return, Smith went back on flying status in the A-7 Corsair II. He flew from the USS Saratoga from 1974 to 1977, seeing duty off the coast of Lebanon. From 1979 to 1981, he flew from the USS Coral Sea in the Indian Ocean, including being on alert during the rescue attempt of the hostages held in Iran. Smith served as the Aircraft Maintenance Officer and as a Weapons System Test Pilot at the Pacific Missile Test Center at Point Mugu, California, from 1981 until his retirement from the Navy on August 31, 1985. After retirement, Brad worked for the defense contractor Lear Siegler before starting a Stained Glass business in Florida.
His 2nd Silver Star Citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while interned as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam. In October 1966, his captors, completely ignoring international agreements, subjected him to extreme mental and physical cruelties in an attempt to obtain military information and false confessions for propaganda purposes. Through his resistance to those brutalities, he contributed significantly toward the eventual abandonment of harsh treatment by the North Vietnamese, which was attracting international attention. By his determination, courage, resourcefulness, and devotion to duty, he reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Naval Service and the United States Armed Forces.