Smith, Walter Bedell
Walter Bedell Smith was born Oct. 5, 1895 in Indianapolis, IN. He was nicknamed “Beetle” as a boy. In high school, he took a job as a machinist at the National Motor Vehicle Company. He did not graduate from high school. At 16, he enlisted in the Indiana National Guard. Smith’s work during the Ohio River flood of 1913 led to officer training in 1917. He and Mary Eleanor Cline were married in 1917, and Smith sailed for France with the 4th Division a few months later. Smith was wounded during the Aisne-Marne Offensive.
After the war, he worked disposing of surplus equipment and served in the Bureau of the Budget. He also served at Fort McKinley in the Philippines. Smith attended the Infantry School at Fort Benning, GA in the spring of 1931, where he met George Marshall, and where he stayed on as an instructor. He attended the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, KS, then returned to the Infantry School to teach, but was instead sent to the Army War College, where he graduated in 1937. In 1939, Marshall brought Smith to Washington, D.C., to be the Assistant to the Secretary of the General Staff, and he became Secretary to the General Staff in 1941. Smith was promoted from major to brigadier general in three years.
Smith was Chief of Staff to Gen. Eisenhower during World War II and worked with the combined allied staff. He opened negotiations for German surrender in the Netherlands, and he negotiated the surrender of the German Armed forces which was signed May 7, 1945.
After the war, Smith was the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union for three years as the relationship between the USSR and the United States hardened into a Cold War. In 1949, Smith was made commander of the First Army; his first command since 1918. In 1950, he became the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, where he reorganized the structure and created an identity for the Agency. In 1953, he became Under Secretary of State and retired from the Army.
In 1954, Smith worked at the United Fruit Company, and as a director at RCA and Corning. Smith died of a heart attack on Aug. 9, 1961 and is buried at Arlington Cemetery.
To find other items that the Marshall Foundation has on Walter Bedell “Beetle” Smith, search “Walter Bedell Smith” in the library catalog: https://www.marshallfoundation.org/library/results/
Digitized items in the George C. Marshall archives: