Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Paul Ray Smith
United States Army Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith (September 24, 1969 – April 4, 2003) was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Operation Iraqi Freedom while serving with B Company, 11th Engineer Battalion , 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad, Iraq. Smith was also the first recipient of the Medal of Honor Flag.
SFC Smith was born in El Paso, Texas and raised in Tampa, Florida. He graduated in 1989 from Tampa Bay Vo Tech High School . Following graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Smith served there for 13 years, rising to the rank of Sergeant First Class.
As part of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he was assigned to Bravo Company, 11th Engineer Battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division. His company was supporting the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment as it made its way through the Karbala Gap , across the Euphrates River and to Saddam International Airport in Baghdad.
On April 4, 2003, a 100-man force was assigned to block the highway between Baghdad and the airport, about one mile east of the airport. A brief battle was fought, and several Iraqi prisoners were captured. SFC Smith spotted a walled enclosure nearby with a tower overlooking it. He and his squad set about building an impromptu enemy prisoner of war (EPW) holding area for prisoners there.
Smith and 16 other men used an Armored Combat Earthmover (akin to a bulldozer) to knock a hole in the south wall of the courtyard. On the north side, there was a metal gate that Smith assigned several men to guard. These men noticed 50 to 100 Iraqi troops just past the gate who had taken positions in trenches. Smith summoned a Bradley fighting vehicle to attack their position. A nearby M113 Armored Personnel Carrier came to support their position. The M113 was hit, possibly by a mortar, and all three crewmen were injured. The Bradley was low on ammunition and during a lull in the battle left. The men evacuated the injured M113 crewmen.
Meanwhile, some Iraqis had taken position in the tower overlooking the courtyard, just over the west wall. The Iraqis now had the Americans in the courtyard under an intense crossfire. Smith took command of the M113 and ordered a driver to position it so that he could attack both the tower and the trenches. He manned the M113's machine gun, going through three boxes of ammunition. A separate team, led by First Sergeant Tim Campbell attacked the tower from the rear, killing the Iraqis. As the battle ended, Smith was shot in the head and killed.
He was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and nominated by his division for the Medal of Honor. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on April 5, 2005. The ceremony took place two years from the day he was killed. The decoration was presented by President George W. Bush and received by his eleven-year old son, David.
SFC Smith is survived by his wife, Birgit, their son David, and his wife's daughter, Jessica, from a previous relationship.
- Army Micro-site Honoring Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith by the U.S. Army, March 28, 2005.
- Army Images Archive - High Resolution Photographs of Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith by the U.S. Army, March 28, 2005.
- Interactive Report by Alex Leary for the St. Petersburg Times, January 25, 2005.
- "Iraq hero joins hallowed group" by Alex Leary for the St. Petersburg Times, February 2, 2005.
- "Medals for His Valor, Ashes for His Wife" By Steven Lee Myers, The New York Times, September 23, 2003 (requires subscription).
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