Walter Bedell Smith file photo, as ambassador to Soviet Union [3567]

Walter Smith

Given NameWalter
Born5 Oct 1895
Died9 Aug 1961
CountryUnited States


ww2dbaseWalter Bedell Smith was a WW1 veteran, serving with the US 4th Division as an infantry officer in France. He rose through the ranks during the inter-war period. He was assigned the position of Secretary to the Army General Staff in Sep 1941 at the rank of major.

ww2dbaseAfter the US entered WW2, Smith was assigned Secretary of the US Combined Chiefs of Staff in Feb 1942. In 1943, he became General Dwight Eisenhower's chief of staff in North Africa, and retained that role until the end of the war. He was a straight-forward man who had no reservations doing jobs that others might not want, such as delivering the disciplinary speeches to George Patton. He was also a known segregationist who kept African-American soldiers from front line combat. Although generally understood as an excellent military administrator, he was not well-liked among his peers for the perception of being a sycophant to Eisenhower. Some of his peers described him as an authoritarian perfectionist who demanded others to be perfect as well.

ww2dbaseAfter the war, Smith became the ambassador to the Soviet Union until 1949. He returned to active service upon return to the United States and became the commander of the US First Army at the rank of a full general. When the Korean War broke out, he was suffering a serious case of ulcers that led to about 2/3 of his stomach being removed, but it did little to deter him from his new duties at the helm of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He was appalled to find the CIA leadership operating recklessly, spending a bulk of their budget on covert operations that more often led to agents' deaths with little results, rather than gathering intelligence, something that was already severely lacking. Although by his own standards he failed at shifting this culture at the CIA, his attempts to reform the agency nevertheless shaped its direction for the next several decades. Between 1953 and 1954, he was the Secretary of State under his war-time commanding officer Eisenhower, now the President of the United States.

ww2dbaseSmith died from a heart attack in 1961 at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, DC, United States. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, United States.

Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes

Last Major Revision: May 2007

Walter Smith Interactive Map


Portrait of Brigadier Walter Bedell Smith, EisenhowerSir Andrew Cunningham, Dwight Eisenhower, Henry Hewitt, and Walter Bedell Smith at Allied Forces Headquarters in Hotel St. George, Algiers, Algeria, 16 Oct 1943.Dwight Eisenhower and Winston Churchill in Tunisia, 25 Dec 1943, photo 1 of 2; Churchill was in a robe in this photo because he was recovering from pneumoniaBradley, Ramsay, Tedder, Eisenhower, Montgomery, Leigh-Mallory, and Smith at a SHAEF conference in London, England, United Kingdom, 1 Feb 1944, photo 1 of 7
See all 21 photographs of Walter Smith

Walter Smith Timeline

5 Oct 1895 Walter Smith was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States.
9 Aug 1961 Walter Smith passed away.

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Event(s) Participated:
» Germany's Surrender

» Armistice with Italy

Walter Smith Photo Gallery
Portrait of Brigadier Walter Bedell Smith, Eisenhower
See all 21 photographs of Walter Smith

Famous WW2 Quote
"We no longer demand anything, we want war."

Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939

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