Smartt, Joseph Gillespie

Patrol Squadron 11 Kaneohe Naval Air Station

On This Day, 7-DEC 1941, We Honor a Fallen Hero

Joseph Gillespie Smartt was born on 19-MAR 1917 in Texas.  His father was George Pendleton Smart, MD  (1880-1918) and his mother was Sara Alice Gillespie (1884-1968).  Joseph had one brother; George Pendleton Smart Jr. Joseph Smartt was in the US Navy Reserve.  

Ensign Smartt had started his flight training at NRAB (Naval Reserve Aviation Base), in St. Charles Missouri just outside of St. Louis.  The number of cadets being trained kept increasing so the Navy purchased several hundred acres of land in St. Charles County near where the Illinois River entered the Mississippi River. This became an auxiliary landing field for the cadets to practice takeoffs and landings.  When the United States entered the war and student training was greatly expanded, a large hexagon shaped blacktop area was added with a pair of runways every 60 degrees so you were never more than 30 degrees out of the wind. This same shape and design was used in hundreds of primary training fields (Navy and Army Air Corps) around the country.  A large hangar and aircraft workshop was added and later, barracks and mess halls. 

Joseph Edward Smartt had an aunt and uncle living in St. Louis in Richmond Heights.  The Post-Dispatch reported Joseph was a former St. Louis salesman.  

Joseph Gillespie Smartt was killed in action on 7-DEC 1941 at Pearl Harbor.  He was stationed at Naval Station Ford Island, assigned to Patrol Squadron 11 Kaneohe Naval Air Station.  Ensign Joseph Gillespie Smartt was among those cited by CinCPacFlt, “For prompt and efficient action and utter disregard of personal danger in the effort to repel the attack on Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on 7-DEC 1941, which was made in conjunction with the attack on the fleet in Pearl Harbor on that date.” 

The facility in St. Charles MO. was later renamed Smartt Field in honor of Ensign Joseph Smartt, who was killed in the Japanese attack on NAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii on 7-DEC 1941.  A shipbuilder later named an escort ship the U.S.S. Smartt in memory of Ensign Joseph G. Smartt.  

Today some remnants of the old blacktop remain and the hangar, the only one of the buildings remaining, has historical significance and is used by the local wing of the Confederate Air Force. The airport is now called St Charles County Smartt Airport.

Four St. Charles County servicemen survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. Sadly, Joseph Smartt did not.

Joseph Gillespie Smartt is buried in Honolulu Memorial Cemetery, Hawaii.  

Joseph Smartt is honored and remembered at the St. Charles County Veterans Museum.  

Please contact the St. Charles County Veterans Museum Oral History project at sccvetsmuseum@gmail.com or call 636-294-2657 for more information and lets’ talk. We want to hear from you because we know…Every Veteran has a story.