Family Welcomes the Remains of Colonel Eugene Smith Home After 62 Years

Colonel Eugene Smith, who served as an Army Investigator during and after the Second World War, was finally brought home and laid to rest after over six decades of going missing.

Colonel Eugene Smith was declared missing along with 52 other passengers and crew members way back in November 22, 1952 when the plane he was in lost contact with controllers only hours after it was due to land in Alaska. Colonel Eugene Smith was headed there on what was supposed to be his new assignment.

Colonel Eugene Smith grew up in a closely-knit Catholic family. He graduated from the Salesianum School in Wilmington after which he joined the Delaware National Guard. In 1942 Colonel Eugene Smith was commissioned in the military police and worked as an army investigator throughout WWII. He was the one who led the effort into solving the $1.5 million theft of the Hesse family jewels leading to the courts-martial of three officers in the Army.

Colonel Smith was expected to take the command of OSI at Alaska Air Command when the accident happened.

Colonel Eugene Smith
Colonel Eugene Smith

Smith going missing had devastated his mother who died seven years later. His father eventually followed his mother’s demise a year after that.

But in 2012, the unresolved case of the missing Colonel Eugene Smith was reopened when an Alaska Army National Guard helicopter spotted debris 14 miles away from the original crash site of the plane carrying Smith.

The authorities informed the two remaining siblings of the colonel, Mike and Peg, who in turn sent DNA samples in hopes that finally, they’ll be able to find a match.

Sadly, Peg died shortly after that. Mike followed, almost a year before the identification was finalized.

Now, the only remaining relative of Colonel Eugene Smith who had memories of him is Susan Beckman, his niece. She was six years old when her uncle was reported missing. According to her, the family had made a gravestone made for him, but they never did a funeral. They would lay wreaths on that stone to remember him but somehow, had always hoped that he would come home.

Though Beckman is the only one among the family to have fond memories of Colonel Eugene Smith or Uncle Gene as they affectionately call him, the family’s new generation all knew him through the many stories about him.

Last July 25, the Smith family, numbering to 19 individuals, celebrated the return of their long-lost beloved relative. They were joined by representatives from the OSI  as well as other military personnel.

Colonel Eugene Smith was finally laid to rest in the family plot at All Saints Cemetery in Milltown. He was buried with full military honors and a 21-gun salute.

On the other hand, only 17 passengers on the ill-fated plane were identified out of the 52 individuals it carried. Beckman hoped that like Colonel Eugene Smith, everyone on that plane will be properly identified and properly laid to rest.

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE