Guys war


This website is dedicated to my Grandfather, Guy D. Smith, who not only has made a great contribution to the study of soil science in his life, but also documented/filmed much of the construction of the Ledo Road in WWII.

On 19 August, 1942 my Grandfather joined the Army Air Corps. He served until February of 1947 in the WWII China, Burma, India Theater (CBI). Much of this website it dedicated to his time spent abroad filming, documenting, and collecting information about the Ledo Road. He wrote home daily to his wife and family. The Ledo Road (going from Assam, India to Kunming, China) was built so that the Western Allies could provide supplies to the Chinese. It was renamed the Stilwell Road (after General Vinegar Joe Stilwell of the U.S. Army) in early 1945.

Guy Smith

When Guy left the service he dedicated the reminder of his life to the study of soil science. Guy culminated a new soil classification system, which became the official classification system of the U.S. National Cooperative Soil Survey in 1965. It was published in 1975 as Soil Taxonomy: A Basic System of Soil Classification for Making and Interpreting Soil Surveys. The Smith system was adopted in the U.S. and many other nations for their own classification system.

In the 1960’s the nonfarming uses of soil science was increasing rapidly, highway and other infrastructure engineers relied on this system for information.



Guy Smith


May 18

Guy Smith Letter Posted by Amy Smith

(1944) “Midnight, your hero is asleep as the scene opens – the windows are open and he is covered partially with a sheet. The alarm clock points at four – there is a star in the hall – the orderly wakes a man across the hall as his plane is leaving. He is a chaplain and when he goes he takes away the best supply of off-color stories (true stories of course) on the floor. The alarm points at seven when the orderly enters your hero’s room, turns on the light and calls in a loud whisper, “time to get up sir.” The scene changes. The loudspeaker opens up at 1315. This time there is a long list (50 – 60) of officers who have their bags weighted. The voice drones on, officer’s answer “here” but your hero’s name is not called.”

Dec 10 Guy Smith Letter Posted by Amy Smith

(1944) “Do not tell anyone outside the family where I am now, or where I am going to be. Anything in any censored letter cannot be repeated.”

MAR 11 Guy Smith Letter Posted by Amy Smith

(1945) “I want to tell you a little about what Bhamo looks like now that the war has passed it by. It was Burma’s third or fourth city before the war and must have been a beautiful place. Burma is just about as different from India as India is from the U.S. There is so little left that it is hard to imagine what the city did look like. There isn’t a single whole building left, you can count on your fingers and toes the buildings which have enough left to show what they were like. The place is honeycombed with dugouts and foxholes, and the course of fighting is still easy to trace. First the bombs and mortars destroyed many of the dugouts. Then the Chinese soldiers moved in blowing up some dugouts with grenades and cleaning out the others with flamethrowers. The ones that were burned out still have blackened earth entrances. The ground is still littered with unexploded bombs, grenades, etc. The people remained in larger numbers then they did in Myitkyina where there are very few left. However they are almost destitute. Strangely they go about in brilliantly colored clothes and to see them on the road you would not suspect their condition.”

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About Guy Smith

authorGuy D. Smith, was born in 1907, in Atlantic City Iowa, where his father was the local city engineer.

Guy graduated from college in about 1929, just as the depression hit, and worked his way through graduate school. He received his PhD in the study of soil science in the late 1930’s.

By the time Pearl Harbor was bombed he had three children and a wife (he was 34 years of age). He enlisted the next month into the Army Air Corps (January 1942). The Air Force was not yet a separate branch of the service.

His first posting was to an air base in San Antonio, Texas and he was shipped overseas in 1944. He traveled from Florida across Africa and then the Middle East, at last arriving in India. He then traveled from Calcutta to Ledo, where he was based.

Guy retired from the US Department of Agriculture in 1972 as the director of the US Soils Conservation Service. He traveled extensively throughout the world documenting soil samples for the US government throughout much of his career. In 1981 he passed away in Ghent, Belgium, where he held a professorship at the University of Ghent.