SHARKHUNTERS Salutes Veterans
CAPTAIN LEONARD SMITH (2791-1993)
United States Navy, Aviation
|Sink the BISMARCK!|
“The fog was gone the 7th day and they saw the morning sun. Ten hours away from homeland the BISMARCK they did surround.”
These are the words of the song made famous by Johnny Horton for the movie “Sink the Bismarck” but only a handful know it was an American who found this magnificent ship. History recorded that the battleships HMS HOOD and HMS PRINCE OF WALES along with the cruisers HMS SUFFOLK and HMS NORFOLK caught up with BISMARCK and the heavy cruiser PRINZ EUGEN. We know as a result of that encounter, HMS HOOD was destroyed and HMS PRINCE OF WALES was damaged.
In a very clever maneuver, BISMARCK shook off the shadowing cruisers; her location was no longer known and the British began a massive search for her. History tells us that it was the British with a lend-lease PBY Catalina that finally spotted BISMARCK, radioed her position and brought the British attacks that ultimately doomed one of the most beautiful ships ever afloat.
What history did not report until Sharkhunters brought it out some two decades ago, was that this very PBY with “instructor pilot” Lt. Leonard “Tuck” Smith at the controls, that spotted BISMARCK.
“Tuck” was enjoying Navy live aboard a US Navy seaplane tender in Acapulco Bay when he got secret orders that sent him to England to train their pilots in the PBY Catalina patrol bombers given to England. He had ‘volunteered‘ for this job – as veterans know how this ‘volunteering‘ really works. The US was not in the war, so the sending American pilots to train the Brits had to be kept quite secret.
At left, top – We see the painting of “Tuck” in his early days with the Brits.
At left, bottom – We see “Tuck” shortly before receiving his “Final Orders” on 16 May 2006.