Born in Celina, Ohio, Chester B. Smith enlisted in 1954 and progressed through the enlisted ranks to warrant officer and then to commissioned officer status in 1971. During his career he spent 22 years at sea, including two tours in command. He retired from the USN in September 1993 with the rank of Captain after 39 years of active Naval Service and is currently serving as the Chief of Veterans' Services for the city of Jacksonville.
Citation: For extraordinary heroism in action against communist insurgent forces in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with River Section 531 on 11 December 1966.
As Patrol Officer on a PBR combat patrol on the Mekong River, SM1 Smith pursued a sampan, with three Viet Cong aboard, into a narrow canal where the sampan's occupants, aided by eight other Viet Cong along the canal banks, opened fire on the patrol boat. SM1 Smith promptly directed his crew in returning suppressive fire which accounted for eight Viet Cong killed. Bringing in his cover boat from the main river, SM1 Smith reentered the canal where he came upon a company-size Viet Cong force preparing to board forty sampans. The enemy opened fire on the patrol boats, but were completely repulsed and demoralized by SM1 Smith's sudden attack, causing them to retreat in confusion. At least two of the enemy were confirmed as killed. While returning the heavy fire the Viet Cong were directing at him, SM1 Smith systematically destroyed their water transport and equipment. After extracting his patrol to rearm, he reentered canal for a third time and personally directed his machine gunners in silencing six enemy weapons positions. SM1 Smith then vectored a USN helicopter in a rocket run on a cleverly camouflaged bunker. A large secondary explosion resulted, completely destroying an enemy ammunition cache. When the overall four-hour engagement had ended, SM1 Smith's PBR's had accounted for fifteen enemy confirmed killed, twenty-eight enemy sampans sunk, twelve damaged, three captured, and an enemy ammunition cache destroyed. His aggressive actions, outstanding initiative, extraordinary courage, and gallant leadership were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
CAPT. Smith's awards include Navy Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit,
Purple Heart, Navy Commendation, Navy Achievement w/ 2 stars, National
Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal w/ 5 stars, Vietnam Service Medal,
Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry w/ palm, Vietnam Campaign Medal as well as
Captain Chester B. Smith USN Retired