Greensburg veteran survived WWII trauma, shared outdoor activities with children

Mar. 5—Editor's Note: This is part of a series about Westmoreland County residents who have been honored as Hometown Heroes. The program honors local military and non-

military heroes by displaying photos on decorative banners in area communities.

Carl Smith



Carl Smith thought nothing of bicycling from his Greensburg home to Ohiopyle when he was in his 80s.

"He'd go rain or shine or snow," said son Nick, 72, who, with his Greensburg siblings, often accompanied their dad on such outings. "He had headphones on, and he'd be singing to all the great music from the Big Band era.

"He'd meet other people riding on the trail. He'd stop and take photos of them, and they took photos of him."

After surviving a traumatic injury while he served in World War II, the elder Smith was prepared for just about any challenge. Before his death in 2019 at 96, he continued to enjoy biking excursions into his mid-90s, and he golfed in multiple leagues until he was 86.

"He said the gift he wanted for Father's Day was to bike with his children," said daughter Bonnie Smith.

"Dad was persistent, relentless," said youngest son, Curt Smith, 53.

By the same token, "He would never allow any of us kids to quit once we started something," said another son, Bennett Smith, 65.


A Scottdale native, Carl Smith excelled in multiple sports in high school and graduated in 1942. He then enlisted in the Army, serving in five World War II campaigns — in Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe.

He was assigned to the 148th Engineer Combat Battalion, where he was a mechanic, radio operator, Jeep driver and machine gunner.

He suffered a concussion and a permanent hearing loss when a Jeep he was driving hit an anti-tank mine. After a few weeks of recovery, he wanted to rejoin his unit and, when no transportation was available, he hitchhiked, sleeping outdoors between rides.

By chance, he met up with a former classmate from Scottdale High, who helped him get to a vehicle depot, where he rejoined his unit.

Smith received a Purple Heart for his injury and, years later, a French Legion of Honour medal, that nation's highest award.


After completing his military service, Smith followed in his father's footsteps and began a railroad career. He traveled to Kansas City to learn telegraphy for his job dispatching and switching trains from various towers along the tracks in Westmoreland

County and environs.

The telegraph system eventually was phased out, but there was a longer-lasting benefit from the trip west. Smith met the woman who would become his wife of 71 years, Barbara.

One day, Smith listened

extra-closely to the phone in his tower, hearing the voice of a crew member on an approaching train.

"He thought the voice sounded familiar, but he wasn't quite sure," said his daughter. "Then he saw it was my grandfather looking up at him. That really meant a lot to my dad."

Smith often rode a bus part-way and then walked to reach his assigned tower. On one of those walks, he ran into a skunk.

"He was working solo in the tower and tried to air out his clothes during the day, but he had to get back on the bus to get home," said Curt Smith. "He said it was funny how people reacted to him."


Carl Smith went the extra mile to support his children in their endeavors, including high school athletics.

Bennett Smith recalled how, after a long day at work, his dad would take him to late evening pick-up hockey games at Greensburg's Lynch Field. "He knew I needed the extra ice time" so he could play up to par as an extra member of the high school hockey team at Norwin.

Curt Smith said his father drew a mild reprimand from officials when he encouraged his son by racing alongside the track as he competed in a meet. "I was on the inside lane, and he was pacing me," he said.

Carl Smith continued to offer help to his adult children when they combined forces to open Hi-Tech Hut, a Greensburg business that sold some of the earliest version of mobile phones.

"Dad was the one that named it," Curt Smith said of the business. "We'd bounce things off him a lot. He helped with almost everything.

"He never wanted to hear that he couldn't do something."

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff by email at or via Twitter .