LCDR Curtis Smothers, U.S. Navy (1962-1986)



The following Reflection represents LCDR Curtis Smothers’s legacy of their military service from 1962 to 1986. If you are a Veteran, consider preserving a record of your own military service, including your memories and photographs, on (TWS), the leading archive of living military history. The Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Military Service Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life.

What personal and professional achievements from your Military service are you most proud of and why?:

My proudest achievement during my 24 years’ and 6 months’ service in the U.S. Navy was my Presidential Meritorious Service Medal award. The award recognizes my performance as an Administrative Officer on the USS Coral Sea (CV-43) before and during the 1983 change of home port and around-the-world cruise.

The Coral Sea was an older aircraft carrier dating back to about 1948. Duty on this proud ship could best be characterized as arduous and challenging. We had a fully deployed complement of the ship’s company and embarked squadrons consisting of about 5,000 officers and men. This was before the age of computers, email, and social media, so we had to do everything on paper and mostly by the seat of our pants. 

Despite those challenges, I was proud to be a part of a crew that earned awards and recognition for outstanding operational performance (Battle “E,” Damage Control Battle “E,” Presidential Unit Citation) and a Golden Anchor Award. I was a Repair 3 officer when my crew of yeomen, personnelmen, and postal clerks placed first in the damage control drills during the pre-cruise refresher training. 

Plus, during the cruise, I crossed the equator for the first time and became a Shellback. (The initiation ceremony was especially tough on us officers!)

One particularly memorable experience was my “five seconds of fame” as an extra during the filming of the film The Right Stuff. The move was about the early days of the U.S. space program, and the production crew embarked to shoot a scene on the Coral Sea flight deck while underway. 

The actor Fred Ward played the role of Gus Grissom, and my job was to escort him from the helicopter to the flight deck door. After about three takes with me grinning like a Cheshire cat walking towards the camera, the director called “cut.”  I finally saw the completed movie about a year later on the big screen. And there I was! (I’m to the left of Fred Ward. The officer to the right was LTJG Mike Twyman, the ship’s secretary.)

So, nowadays, when someone thanks me for my service, my response is, “Thank you for the honor of serving my country. Also, did you know I had a starring role in the movie The Right Stuff?” I usually get blank stares, but I am still waiting for another offer. It has been 40 years, so I’m not optimistic.

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Tags: film The Right Stuff, Military Memories of our Runner-Ups, Presidential Meritorious Service Medal award, Presidential Unit Citation, USS Coral Sea (CV-43)


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