Charles Paul Smith Jr.
SGT in 406th Engineer Combat Co
Military occupational specialty: 242 (toolroom keeper)
Born 1923 in NJ, Died 1997
County of residence at enlistment: Camden County, NJ
Other residence(s): Gloucester City, NJ; National Park, NJ
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
Charles Smith was born on September 19, 1923 in Gloucester City, NJ, the fifth of ten children. His father was a factory laborer, and later a factory fireman.
Charles completed the seventh grade before leaving school; at the time of the 1940 census he was listed as a "new worker."
When he registered for the draft, on June 30, 1942, he was not working. The following year, he was one of 15 young men from Gloucester City who enlisted in the Army between March 15-22, 1943; all but three of them were 18 or 19 years old. On March 25, they found themselves on a train headed to Camp Gordon, Georgia. There they would join the newly activated 293rd Engineer Combat Battalion, and be assigned to Company A. That spring and summer they trained in Georgia and Tennessee, and that fall boarded a train for Camp Pilot Knob, aka the Desert Training Center, five miles from Yuma, Arizona (just inside the California border). In mid-January 1944, the commander of the 293rd received an order to detach his best company for a secret mission. He selected Company A, and by January 30, 1944 the men were back in Tennessee. On April 7, 1944, Company A of the 293rd was officially reassigned and renamed as the 406th Engineer Combat Company, and the unit boarded a ship to England in early May.
That July, as the men of the 406th headed across England on their way to the war, the train stopped in the city of Gloucester. Here the local NAAFI (the organization that runs recreation, canteens, and PXs for British servicemen) served them tea, which was quaffed amid cheers from the soldiers from Gloucester City, New Jersey.
After their service in the Ghost Army all 15 men returned to the states. They were feted on July 14, 1945 by the Third Ward Regular Democratic Club while back in Gloucester City on 30-day furloughs. Charles was discharged with the rank of SGT, returned to Gloucester City, and joined the National Park VFW Post #6884.
Charles married Marguerite Priest after the war; they would have a son Charles Paul III in 1946. By the time of the 1950 census, Charles listed his marital status as separated. He was living at home with his parents, five siblings, and his three-year-old son, and working as a machine operator in the chemical industry.
In 1957 Charles ran for the City Council in Gloucester City; he received more votes than the incumbent but still lost the election.
At some point, Charles moved to National Park, NJ, which was his residence at the time of his death, on April 28. 1997. He appears to have reconciled with Marguerite, since his obituary states that he was her "beloved husband." He is buried at Woodbury Memorial Park in West Deptford, NJ.
Charles' son, Charles III, was a Vietnam veteran and spent 25 years in the military; he died at the age of 53, only two years after the death of his father.
1923 Baptismal record
1942 draft card
1943 article in the Morning Post (Camden, NJ) about him and 14 other Gloucester veterans of the 406th Engineers—all of them (plus others from the area) were being sent to Fort Dix for training
1945 article in the Morning Post (Camden, NJ) about him and 15 other Gloucester veterans of the 406th Engineers
1957 article in the Courier-Post (Camden NJ); he ran for City Council
1957 article in the Courier-Post (Camden NJ); election results
1957 article in the Courier-Post (Camden NJ); he is on a jury
1997 Gloucester City directory
1997 Social Security applications and claims index
1997 NJ death index
1997 Find a Grave record
1997 Social Security death index
1997 obituary in the Courier-Post (Camden NJ)
1999 son's obituary in the Courier-Post (Camden NJ)
406th Unit History Compiled