Wilmer G. Smith
Biography: Wilmer George Smith was born on December 15, 1915, in Arapahoe, Nebraska. He was the son of George Marion Smith and Althea Lida Clark and attended school in Hollinger, NE, through the 10th grade. He then worked as a farm hand prior to the war.
Service Time: Wilmer entered the service on February 20, 1942, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. After his initial training, he was assigned to the Headquarters Company of the 636th Tank Destroyer battalion and functioned as a truck driver for the unit. On May 22nd, he qualified as a Marksman with the rifle.
On November 18th, while on leave, he married the former Dorothy Fern Leach who was born in Beaver City, NE, and was the daughter of Clyde Conner Leach and Ethel Fern Ayars.
Wilmer returned to the unit and after additional training within the U.S., they shipped out from the New York port on April 2, 1943, arriving at Oran, Algeria, on April 13, 1943. They boarded ships again and landed at Paestum, Italy, beginning on September 13th. Elements performed artillery missions, guarded the Fifth Army Command Post, and trained British troops on the M10 Tank Destroyer and TD doctrine in October and November.
The photos above of Wilmer were taken during his early training, while still in the U.S. He was a truck driver and is shown sitting on the front of the GMC CCKW 2½-ton 6×6 truck he drove.
They reentered the line at the Mignano sector in late November, supporting the assault on San Pietro and later the Rapido River crossing in January, 1944. They entered the Cassino sector in February and then transferred to the Anzio beachhead in May, entering Rome on June 4th.
The 636th boarded ships again and landed in Southern France on August 15th and were the first unit to enter Lyon and reach the Moselle River in September. Engaged in the Vosges Mountain region beginning in October, they relieved the 601st TD Bn in Strasbourg in December. They battled the German Northwind offensive in January and February, 1945, before converting to M36 Tank Destroyers, beginning in late February.
The photo above left is Wilmer showcasing his musical talents with a borrowed accordion. The photo at right may have been at the start of his trip home.
During their last actions, they struck Siegfried Line defenses near Wissembourg in late March and crossed the Rhine with the 14th Armored Division in April. The 636th finally dashed toward Nürnberg and ended the war in southern Bavaria near Tegernsee. The unit received credit for the campaigns of Naples – Foggia, Anzio, Rome Arno, Southern France, Rhineland and Central Europe.
Wilmer shipped back to the U.S. on September 7th, arriving on the 16th. He was assigned to the 48th Tank Battalion and left the service on the 29th, at Fort Leavenworth, at the rank of Private First Class.
Wilmer and Dorothy would make their home in Loomis, NE, and he worked as a mechanic and later owned his own service station. In his spare time, he enjoyed fishing and collecting antique cars. The family would grow as well with the birth of four children, Terry, born in 1946, Jo Ann in 1948, Clark in 1950, and Mark in 1958. Wilmer passed away on December 6, 2002, and was buried in the Moses Hill Cemetery in Holdrege, NE.
The photo at left is Wilmer in about 1988. I want to thank Wilmer’s son, Mark, for providing the information and photos for this tribute.