December 1945 – The story of the sword

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This was the Christmas card sent from Japan to Broad Channel, New York in December 1945. Anna Smith had been waiting to hear this news from her son Everett (Smitty) for over three years. On the back, it reads:

“Dear Mom:
This is the best Xmas card I’ve sent to you since getting in the army. I figured this would be what you have always been waiting to see, here it goes.

“I’m finally on my way, so don’t send any more mail.
Love, Everett
“P.S. I’ll keep you posted on my various stops.”

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Even though Smitty had earned his points to go home, he was still an NCO on General Swing’s staff and was required to finish out his duties as such. After going through combat in the South Pacific, it would be in peaceful occupational Japan where Smitty’s temper would get the better of him.

Non-nonchalantly going about his business at the headquarters of Camp Schimmelpfennig, Smitty just happened to glance through the glass partition that sealed off Gen. Swing’s office. Inside was an officer holding and admiring the Japanese sword that his commander intended to keep and bring home as a souvenir. Smitty didn’t think much of it at the time; he was busy and many people commented on the weapon. so he continued down the hallway. A short while later, the entire office could hear the general demanding to know what had become of his sword. It was gone.

My father didn’t think twice, this was his general. He went into the room and told Swing what he had witnessed. Without a second thought, the two men went to the other officer’s office, but neither the man or sword was there. The officer in question showed a few moments later. When the general explained why they were waiting for him, the officer became indignant and professed his innocence (just a tad too much). My father said the air of tension in the room became thick enough to use a machete on. This was when Smitty’s temper went out of control and with one right cross – sent the officer through his own glass partition.

Of course, this action made it necessary to bust Smitty back down to private, but he didn’t care about that. He was still furious that the sword was never returned. It all could have gone worse if the general had not been there or if he did not believe Smitty’s word. Smitty said it was worth being busted just to wipe the smirky grin off the officer’s face. The officer, I believe, was a replacement and had not seen much (if any) combat, just a blow-heart. Smitty later offered his two Japanese swords to General Swing, but he refused. My father didn’t believe the general would have taken the Emperor’s own sword as a replacement. I can clearly see my father’s face contort when he thought of the thief and he would say, “That know-nothing mattress salesman from Texas!” I’m sure it was for the best that the two men never met again stateside as civilians.

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Unfortunately, a similar incident occurred to my father. As he happily began packing to go home, Smitty noticed that an expensive set of carved ivory chop sticks he had purchased somehow had disappeared. They also were never recovered. (I had often wondered if the two incidents had been related, but I suppose we’ll never know.)

Everett A. Smith - aka "Pops" or "Smitty"

Everett A. Smith – aka “Pops” or “Smitty”

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Much can be said about General Joseph May Swing that I am very surprised no one had written his biography. He stood tall and lean with prematurely white hair and arresting blue eyes. The man had an instinct for command and left an impressive and formidable impression on all he met.

Swing was born on 28 February 1894 and graduated in the star-studded West Point class of 1915. His fellow classmates included Dwight D. Eisenhower and Generals Bradley, Beukema, Ryder, Irwin, McNarney and Van Fleet. Van Fleet had relieved General Ridgeway as commander of the Eighth Army, which included the 187th RCT during the Korean War.

Gen. Swing

Gen. Swing

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on May 16, 2013, in SMITTY, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 37 Comments.

  1. I’m not saying it was the right thing to do but I bet your father never regretted throwing that punch. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Where did you find the great photo of General Swing sitting at the desk? The company I work for would like to be able to use that picture for a project. Do you own it or was it a government photo?

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    • The picture was in my father’s scrapbook. I suppose it is online and public now that I published it. It would be nice if your company does use it, for them to mention my father, Everett “Smitty” Smith and the 11th Airborne Division.

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  3. Matt Underwood

    Gail,

    I would like to run your dad’s story about General Swing’s sword for the September 2013 Issue of the Voice of the Angels. It is about time I started tapping the great resource of “Smitty”. Incidentally, although it will be off the record, would you mind emailing me the name of the officer in question? (Providing your dad actually named the Texas mattress salesman by name!) Well, back to wrapping up the June Issue of the Voice.—–Late again! (Kara and I are moving this week to Mt.Washington, KY, about 20 miles south of our present apartment. We bought a house—-homeowners again for the first time in a decade—-we got tired of living like gypsies. Good credit + great interest rates + buyers’ market = Go For It!)

    Thanks Gail!

    Matt Underwood
    Editor, Voice of the Angels
    11th Airborne Division Association

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    • Matt, great to hear from you!! Hope Kara is well and taking a breath now and again (I know how moving can be). No, on the name and it is driving me crazy, I’ve even thought of trying hypnosis. I can picture my father’s face as he would say the name, as though he was spitting out each syllable. I’ve been in the process of repairing a few of the posts (pictures disappeared), so if you happen to need one I haven’t fixed yet – just let me know. Congrats on the new home!!

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  4. It is a shame the swords were stolen from the General…but bravo to Smitty. I am also sad to hear about the ivory chopsticks… Also a shame.

    Yes, depending on the year the sword was crafted (they are stamped by the maker) and by whom, the original owners firmly believed the swords had a spirit. The sword was part of the samurai. But after the surrender, many swords were confiscated (like our family’s) but many had been altered already by then by the Japanese themselves. The handle end’s metal was shaved down to not permit proper wielding due to the banning of the samurai late in the 19th century…but they all still had the silk embroidery.

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    • Why WAS the samurai banned?

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      • It is a long and complicated story, gpcox, but it essentially started with the Black Ships. But when the Meiji period began, it technically banned samurai from CARRYING swords. In essence, the end of the samurai period. But many high posts were held by samurai; the irony is by this time, the samurai were PACIFISTS. When these posts were forcibly vacated by the samurai and re-occupied by unethical businessmen, that opened the door towards WWII. Just my opinion… 🙂

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  5. My dad brought two Gurkha Kukri knives back from the Burma campaign. He also had a Japanese officer’s pistol and Samurai sword. However, he obeyed orders and handed the pistol in; the sword was stolen on the troopship from Singapore back to the UK.

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  6. Wow! I don’t want to say they don’t make them like that anymore because I know they do. I think they’ve just gotten a bit harder to find!

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  7. Thanks for all the likes on my blog. I like your pieces, especially as my Father fought throughout the second world war with Montgomery from Alamein in North Africa, Italy, D-Day, the Battle for France and then through Germany. I have no idea how awful it must have been for every one involved, both combatants and civilians. He never really wanted to talk about it but did a bit in later years. He ended up in Kiel Northern Germany at the end of the war and told me a story how after hostilities had ceased they were in huts in a forest when a rogue messerschmidt decided the war wasn’t over and straffed their encampment. He got out just as his hut blew up. I think his point was I was lucky to ever get born and didn’t know how close I was to not being born!!!!

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  8. Always enjoy reading a story about an old-fashioned gentleman with a strong value system even during wartime stress.Thanks for sharing the Christmas card, too. What a great father!

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  9. I suppose in war, as in peace, there are men of honor and men with no honor. Fortunately, those with honor are remembered by many more and for a much longer period of time.

    Smitty knew what needed to be done and took the consequences like a man. What a wonderful father he must have been.

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  10. Thank you for transporting us back in time with this incredible story and images. Great post!

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  11. Swords of that sort are beautifully crafted traditional implements. There is a whole religious component in the careful crafting of the weapons. I can understand the dispute based on this factor alone, ethics aside.

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  12. Pierre Lagacé

    A little anecdote that tells a lot about two great men

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  13. Pierre Lagacé

    A reblogué ceci sur Lest We Forget and commented:
    A little anecdote that tells a lot about two great men

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  14. Really interesting read, thanks for sharing 🙂

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