GREEN Colonel USAF (Ret), Melvin "Smokey" |
Melvin, "Smokey" Greene, Colonel, USAF (Ret), lived a life of adventure, served his nation with courage and distinction, was a loving husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and a loyal friend to so many. This outstanding member of the Greatest Generation died peacefully Monday, at his home in Austin, in the loving company of his family. He was 95.
Born April 12, 1918 in Columbia Falls, Montana, the beauty of northern Montana was his backdrop as he enjoyed years of hunting and fishing with his father, Ferd and younger brothers, Howard and Alan. As a teenager Smokey worked for the U.S. Forest Service as a tower lookout and firefighter, later entering the Montana School of Mines in Butte to pursue a degree in mining engineering. He joined the Forest Service's elite Smokejumpers unit in 1942, where he earned his nickname "Smokey" and acquired a skill that would later save his life.
In 1943 Smokey joined the Army Air Corps and was assigned to the new B-29 bomber as a Flight Engineer. During training in Texas he married Martha Achee after a whirlwind wartime romance.
Deployed to Guam, and under the command of the legendary General Curtis LeMay, Smokey and his bomber crew flew five successful sorties. But on his sixth mission, in April 1945 over Nagoya, Japan, a kamikaze pilot slammed into the B-29. Smokey safely parachuted from the burning bomber but spent the remainder of the war in solitary confinement in Omori prison near Tokyo. He was awarded a Purple Heart for his injuries and after the war returned home to Marty and their new son, Smokey, Jr., born while he was a prisoner of war.
Smokey continued his military career, serving at overseas stations including Eritrea in East Africa, Athens, Taiwan, and several bases in the U.S. Smokey was a highly effective Air Force leader and logistics expert. He was equally at home on the flight line working with his aircraft mechanics or dining at the embassy with heads of state. Along the way the family grew to include daughters Kathryn, Mary, Margaret and Stephanie. He retired as a full colonel at Bergstrom AFB, Texas in 1972 after 29 years of service. Among his many prestigious decorations is the Legion of Merit.
Retiring in Austin, Smokey and Marty enjoyed many happy years with family and friends before she succumbed to cancer in 1986. Smokey relocated to Air Force Village in San Antonio and for the next 22 years it was his base to visit family and friends across the Country. Smokey would think nothing of driving thousands of miles to visit friends. He and his son made annual trips to Montana to backpack and fish and visit with family.
In 2008 he returned to Austin to live with his daughter Stephanie and her husband, Dr. Mike Werner where he continued to remain active and enjoy a loving home.
Smokey is survived by his younger brother Howard, his five children and their spouses, nine grandchildren and thirteen great grandchildren and Blaze, his faithful border collie.
Smokey's visitation will be on Thursday 30 January at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, 2620 South Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704 from 5 to 8 p.m., Remembrance from 7-8 p.m. On Friday 31 January at 9 a.m. a funeral mass will be held at St. Catherine's of Siena Catholic Church in Austin at 4800 Convict Hill Road Austin, Texas 78749, with interment to follow at 1:45 p.m. at Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Wounded Warrior Project. https://support.woundedwarriorproject.org
Memorials and guestbook online at www.wcfish.com
Published in Austin American-Statesman from Jan. 26 to Jan. 27, 2014