Private Furman L. Smith, USA (May 31-June 1, 1944)

Furman L. Smith was born in Six Mile, South Carolina on May 11, 1925. He was drafted into the United States Army on July 28, 1943 at age eighteen. Like so many young Americans ripped from their civilian lives to fight in distant lands, Smith held just a grammar school education and had been a farm hand in Central, South Carolina.

Smith was placed as a rifleman with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment of the 34th Infantry Division. Seventy years ago today on May 31, 1944 as his company was beleaguered a Nazi counter attack near Lanuvio, Italy, Private Smith refused to abandon several of his wounded comrades to capture by the enemy.

The young private’s lone, defiant stand cost him his life. A grateful nation did not allow his heroism to go unrewarded and bestowed upon him our highest honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (M-S):


Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor


Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army, 135th Infantry, 34th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Lanuvio, Italy, 31 May 1944. Entered service at: Central, S.C. G.O. No.: 6, 24 January 1945

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. In its attack on a strong point, an infantry company was held up by intense enemy fire. The group to which Pvt. Smith belonged was far in the lead when attacked by a force of 80 Germans. The squad leader and 1 other man were seriously wounded and other members of the group withdrew to the company position, but Pvt. Smith refused to leave his wounded comrades. He placed them in the shelter of shell craters and then alone faced a strong enemy counterattack, temporarily checking it by his accurate rifle fire at close range, killing and wounding many of the foe. Against overwhelming odds, he stood his ground until shot down and killed, rifle in hand.

Fittingly, the motto of the 135th Infantry is: “To the last man.”

Furman L. Smith today rests in peace in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Central.


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