Albert L. Smith
U. S. Army
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 02/21/1944 - 05/19/1946
Fuel Truck Driver, 397th Armored Field Artillery BN

Albert was born in Schumpert Hospital in Shreveport as one of five children to Earnest Smith and Mary Chamness Smith. His father, a commissioned agent for Lorco Oil Company, sold gasoline to service stations. The family lived on Greenwood Road in a house his father built in 1925, with electricity and natural gas. They kept milk cows, raised a garden and canned vegetables. On Sundays the family attended Greenwood Methodist Church. Albert soon began working with his father. "I delivered gasoline when I was thirteen years old," he recalls. "Nobody had a driver's license here in this country. If you could drive, you drove." After graduating from Greenwood High School in 1941, he took over the gasoline delivery route of his brother, who had left for service. On October 8, 1943 he married Ruby Cobb. (They would have two children and four grandchildren.) Albert entered the U.S. Army in 1944 and was sent to Fort Sill near Lawton, Oklahoma, for basic training. He trained to drive a gasoline truck, delivering fuel for halftracks and tanks, as well as receiving instruction in 105mm howitzers, which fired the same shell his wife was making at an ammunition plant near Minden. He then was sent to Camp Chaffee near Fort Smith, Arkansas. In February of 1945 Albert sailed to Europe on a liberty ship. He recalls being so ill with seasickness "I prayed I would die". After landing at Le Havre, France, the men were sent on trains to Lyon where he was assigned his truck. He served in a supply battery as part of the 397th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 16th Armored Division, attached to 3rd Army of General George S. Patton. "We just lived in our trucks," he says of the work of transporting gasoline. . "We ran wide open. We ran on the floor constantly," he says of the speed of convoys. He recalls driving "three days and two nights one time without taking my shoes off or without stopping or without sleep or anything." In 90 days, he says, he drove 15,000 miles. Each day in delivering supplies they had to locate the 397th without a map and no communications. Once, he recalls, he realized he had driven between friendly forces and enemy lines while searching for his battalion. Often, he delivered 2,250 gallons when fully loaded, all in five-gallon jerry cans. Because of the fluid, frontal movements, he rarely received mail. "It was hard for them to keep up with us, so we didn't hear from very many people all during that time," he remarks. After the Germans surrendered he drove gasoline to trucks hauling displaced persons. Later he was sent to clerk-typist school in Fontainebleau, France, then ordered to Frankfurt, Germany, where he worked in the awards and decorations section until he shipped home, again on a liberty ship. This time, however, he recalls the trip as "relaxing." He was discharged in May of 1946 at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Albert entered Centenary College, where he majored in business administration. Meanwhile, he was serving in the reserves and working, first at Thornton's Trim and Body Shop, and then with an investigating company. Albert graduated in 1950, was employed briefly for KCSL&A railroad, and then went into business with his brothers in Smith Distributing Company. He also founded S&R Mobile Homes in Bossier City. Albert retired from most of his businesses by the early 1980s, although he and his wife rented housing mainly to service families at Barksdale Air Force Base.