Late war hero receives medals

Published 5:02 am Saturday, January 27, 2018

Kathy Grosche’s father, John E. Smith, was in the U.S. military during World War II.

“He was in the Air Force and a member of the 350th squadron and the 100th bomber group in World War II,” Grosche said. “They were named the Bloody 100th due to their heavy casualties.”

“He always told me that he didn’t do anything special when I asked him questions, but from what I have found out they were a very special group. I took him to the World War II Museum, and he showed me places they bombed, and he said they always came back with bullet holes in their plane. After one of their missions, they had 77 bullet holes in their plane.”

Two years ago, while she was researching his records, she started working to get Smith the medals he had earned with his youthful strength and energy. Unfortunately, the airman passed away in August of last year, before his daughter succeeded in getting his medals. But he died surrounded by love at Grosche’s house.

His obituary reads: “John Edwin Smith passed away on Friday, August 11, 2017 at the home of his daughter, Kathy Smith Grosche. In civilian life, he was a Master Plumber and owned Smith Commercial Plumbing. He was a Veteran of World War II and served in the European Theatre as a Sergeant with the United States Air Force. He was a member of the 350 Bombardment Squadron, which was part of the 100th Bomb Group, they were known as the Bloody 100th due to the terrible losses incurred. He flew 33 missions over Normandy, Northern France, and Rhineland.”

“I have been trying since before he passed away to get all his medals and records, because it was something he never wanted to talk about,” Grosche said. “Anyway, I enlisted the help of Congressman (Ralph) Abraham, and his office called me to advise that they were able to obtain the medals.”

On Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, more than 72 years after the end of World War II, Grosche and her family were presented with Smith’s medals at the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office in Bogalusa.

When the presentation was over, Grosche said she was both joyful and sad. She was happy that she had finally gotten the medals, but sad that her father could not see them.

“I was excited, but it was bittersweet,” Grosche said. “I was wishing that he was here, too. I was trying to get them before he passed away. I had been trying to get them for so long. He knew I was trying, though. Like I said, it was really bittersweet.”