Who is Byron Smith?

Byron Smith is a law-abiding, private man who dedicated his entire adult life to our country.

Byron's Parents

Ted Smith and Ida Nordlin married in 1946, shortly after returning from WWII. Ida had served as a pharmacist’s mate at the Naval Hospital in Corona, California. Ted enlisted in the Army, transferred to the Army Air Corp and became a B-17 pilot. He was shot down on the horrific second raid on Schweinfurt and was a German POW for 19 months. A Rolex watch was gifted to him by the French Government for his service. It was stolen on October 27 2012.

Ted started the first taxi company in Little Falls, but sold it and was hired as an operator at Blanchard Dam for Minnesota Power & Light. After nine years he was promoted to maintenance foreman for four hydroelectric plants in central Minnesota: Little Falls, Blanchard, Sylvan and Pillager. In the 70’s he was promoted to Chief Operator and continued until retirement after 36 years.

They attended Swedish Lutheran Church, now known as Bethel Lutheran where Byron was baptized and confirmed. Ted was the church treasurer for many years. Ted was also the Lion’s Club treasurer and President of the Pinnacle Hunting Club. Ted passed away in 1998, Ida in 2009, five months after Byron retired to his family home.

Byron Smith Home

Byron’s property was once a sawmill. Larson’s Boat Works Sawmill in Belle Prairie was where all the action was – boats, lumber piles, scrap metal, sawdust piles – great place for kids to explore.

In 1961 the property went up for sale and despite all the wood and metal scrap with 50 years of junk and debris, Ted bought his childhood playground. Until two years ago, Byron thought of it as his ideal playground.


Byron with his Dad
Byron the Eagle Scout

The Early Years

Byron is the second son of Ted and Ida Smith of Little Falls. He is an Eagle Scout with 51 merit badges, more than twice the 21 required. He was also a Church Acolyte. Byron graduated from Little Falls High School in 1966 in a class of 266 students. He was ranked 2nd in his class in academics. Byron attended the University of Minnesota Minneapolis from 1966 to 1968.


Military

Byron was inducted into the United States Air Force on April 21st in 1968. High test scores after one year of electrical engineering led the Air Force to assign him to one of their most difficult and critical skills: the bombing and navigation system of the B-52. After 42 weeks of training, Smith graduated first in his class. Working 12 hour shifts back to back to earn flight line personnel status, he volunteered for in-flight duty in Viet Nam on the B-52’s. Three B-52’s flew out of his base every two hours. There are many opportunities for electronics to fail in the hot tropical sun. If systems fail during pre-flight, the launch crew member only has minutes to analyze and solve the problem and fix everything before getting to the target. Second guesses are left behind on the ground. Half of the men working as a launch crew member dropped out due to the technical challenges and the stress of not failing.

Air Force

Smith was awarded the Commendation Medal for excellent performance on these flights. Byron made 27 flights, exceeding the required minimum of 25 to be awarded the Air Combat Medal. He was promoted to E-5 Staff Sargent in less than four years, which was accomplished by less than 5% of all first term enlistees. Seven of his nine medals and ribbons are for Viet Nam service.

During his time in the United States Air Force, Byron earned several military decorations:

  1. Air Medal

    For air combat duty, 25 missions or more

  2. Air Force Personal Commendation Medal

    For "distinctive meritorious achievement and service"

  3. Air Force Outstanding Unit Award w/ Oak Leaf Cluster (2 campaigns) Ribbon

    For "marked distinction in difficult or hazardous conditions", Vietnam B-52 service

  4. Air Force Good Conduct Medal

    For three years continuous service with efficiency ratings of "excellent" or higher

  5. National Defense Service Medal

    For voluntary service during a "national emergency" (the Vietnam conflict)

  6. Vietnam Service Award w/ Bronze Star (two campaigns) Ribbon

    For direct support of ground troops

  7. Air Force Longevity Award Ribbon

    For four years or more of service

  8. Vietnam Gallantry Cross Medal

    From the Vietnamese government for valor or heroism

  9. Vietnam Campaign Medal

    For direct combat support of at least six months


Byron Smith in Woods

Post Military Career and Education

In 1972 Byron went to work for Hughes Aerospace in Torrance, CA as a microwave Communications Technician.

Byron received his Bachelor’s degree from Cal-Poly in San Louis Obispo, California. He specialized in wide band regional cable television distribution systems earning 418 university credits. He does not know, nor has ever heard of any other members of the 400 club.


State Department

Working as a Technical Security Engineer for the United States State Department Byron spent 20 of his last 40 years oversees. Part of his work was to design and install embassy security systems in Cairo, Moscow, Beijing and other major world cities. He has spent two months or more in at least 40 different countries and has had residency permits (two years of living) in Thailand, Egypt, Russia, West Africa, Germany and China.

His favorite cities are: Tasmania; Lima, Peru; Salzburg, Austria; Amsterdam; the Southern Island of New Zealand; St. Petersburg, Russia; and Beijing. He always preferred to go on his own without tour guides, so is a fanatic about books and maps.

Byron moved too many times in his career to become fluent at any one language, but is supremely skilled at waving and pointing!


Photos

Byron enjoys his record collection.

Byron fishing with his Dad.

Byron with his Mom.


Photography

Byron is an avid photographer.

See Some of his Photos »

Learn More about the Camera »


Now that you know who Byron is, learn what happened to him the 6 months prior to the incident.

The Lead-up »