Veteran Profile

REMEMBERING THE FIRST MEN ON THE MOON

On June 7, 1944 a young Army Lieutenant Charles D. Smith (February 16, 1919 – March 24, 2007), nicknamed “Denny,” charged the beaches of Normandy with the Army’s Second Infantry Division.  That day he sustained injuries that cost him an eye and most of one arm and caused him to beg for death. Surviving the injuries, he would be awarded a Purple Heart. Like many veterans of World War 2, Dr. Smith went on to live a full life in spite of his profound sacrifice, attaining a PhD in History from Harvard University followed by a career in engineering.  A particular interest or hobby of his was following the U. S. Space Race. Mr. Smith clipped newspaper articles about the U.S. space program and glued them into two albums that he later donated to the AIMH archives.

Leafing through the albums takes the viewer back to the days when footprints on the moon were a hoped for, but not an assured, thing. Page by page the advances (and devastating setbacks) of the space program are recorded.  Clippings are taken from The New York Times, The Boston Globe and The Washington Post reminding us that the Space Race was on the national agenda. The second to the last page of Mr. Smith’s album is a front page New York Times article dated July 20, 1969 headlined: Astronauts Swing into Moon Orbit in Preparation for Today’s Landing. The last page is a colored photo of the American flag implanted in the Moon’s surface and surrounded by footprints.  On the inner cover of the album, Mr. Smith has taped a lined piece of paper on which he has listed, presumably as they occurred, the achievements of the astronauts of the U. S. Space Program. The final entry reads, 

July 16-24 [no year is noted]    Neil Armstrong First man on moon

                                                        Edwin Aldrin     Buzz pilots LM second on moon

                                                        Mike Collins      loner orbits moon

A brief 25 years after the Allies’ liberation of Europe the U. S. was leading the world once again by being the first nation to put men on the moon.  Mr. Smith became the Poet Laurate of Nassau County and wrote two books, Ballards of the Dorion Dig and Ballads of the Buccaneer Trail both of which can be found in the AIMH archives. His Veteran’s History Project Interview in the AIMH online archives can be accessed here.

To hear Denny’s story in his own words click here.