WWII veteran laid to rest at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery after remains identified

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — Close to 80 after he was killed while fighting against Germany in World War II, one veteran is now back home.

World War II Army Private First Class Clinton E. Smith, Jr. from Corpus Christi was laid to rest on November 27, 2023 after his remains were identified. The service took place at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery with full military honors and caisson.

During the Battle of Reipertswiller in France, Smith, who served with Company D, 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division, was killed on January 14, 1945 by shrapnel while manning a machine gun. Because the Germans controlled the territory where Smith fell, his fellow soldiers were unable to remove the 20-year-old’s body.

Smith’s regiment had managed to penetrate the enemy’s defensive positions near Reipertswiller but was cut off by the German 6th SS Mountain Division. After three days with food and ammunition running low, the remaining soldiers formed a small defensive perimeter and placed the wounded in foxholes to be cared for by those still fighting. With the end near, the remaining able-bodied soldiers attempted to break out.

Tragically, only two men reached Allied lines.

Post-war search efforts by the American Graves Registration Command to recover Smith’s remains were unsuccessful.

More recent efforts by Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency historians conducting on-going research into soldiers missing from combat around Reipertswiller found that one set of remains, which had been buried at Lorraine American Cemetery in St. Avold, France, could be associated with Smith.

In August 2021, the remains were disinterred and transferred to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska for analysis. Using dental, mitochondrial DNA, and anthropological analysis, Smith was identified.

Established in 1937, the 336-acre cemetery Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery richly landscaped grounds serve as a final resting place for many of America’s brave and beloved men and women, including twelve Veterans who were awarded the Medal of Honor.

Other notables include Captain William Randolph for whom Randolph Air Force Base is named; 17 members of the 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment who were executed for their participation in the 1917 Houston Riot; LTC Karen Wagner, a casualty of the 9/11/2001 plane crash at the Pentagon; and 27 Buffalo Soldiers from the 9th and 10th Cavalry, who served during the Indian Wars era.

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