The Levering Smith Chapter of the Naval Submarine League began its life on July IO, 1990, when Admiral R. L. J. Long officially signed the document establishing the sixth chapter of the Naval Submarine League, initially named the Central Florida Chapter because of its location. The Levering Smith Chapter has the responsibility of encouraging continued interest in submarines all the way from Orlando, Tampa and south to Miami.
A few months ago, during a Board meeting, someone suggested that naming the Chapter after a significant contributor to our Submarine Force would be a good idea. Immediately the name of Vice Admiral Levering Smith came up as the person most appropriate for a Central Florida Chapter as many of us who had worked in the program remembered Admiral Smith coming to our Chapter’s area for almost every US and UK SLBM launch-if not all of them.
The Cape Canaveral area, the center area of our Chapter, has been and continues to be the focal point of all SSBN FBM Weapon System Testing. All 41 boats of the “41 For Freedom” passed through The Cape, as well as all of the Tridents. FBM testing operations continue to be conducted at The Cape and should be for some time.
Vice Admiral Smith graduated from the Naval Academy in 1932 and served in various billets on board the battleship USS TEXAS. During World War II he served as USS BULMER’s Executive Officer and later as Flag Lieutenant on the Staff of Commander Task Force 17 and as Chief Staff Officer to Commander Task Force 67. He participated in eleven campaigns and engagements in the Pacific and survived the sinkings of the carrier USS HORNET and cruiser USS NORTHAMPTON. His last battle, with guns, was in the Battle of the Philippine Sea as Gunnery Officer of the cruiser USS INDIANAPOLIS. In September 1944 he returned to the Navy Department and served in various ordnance commands culminating in 1954 with his command of the Naval Ordnance Missile Test Facility, White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico before joining the FBM Program in April of 1956.
The FBM Program began in December 1955 when Admiral Red Raborn was called back to Washington by the then CNO Admiral Arleigh Burke, and given a task to develop a 1500 mile sea based ballistic missile system. Admiral Raborn was allowed to pick his own people and in April 1956 he asked then Captain Levering Smith, a proven and respected ordnance expert, to join the Special Projects (SP) team. Captain Smith was given responsibility for SP’s Missile Branch and in June of 1957 took charge of all SP’s Technical Branches as its Technical Director. In September of 1961, because of Captain Smith’s unusual talents and significant contributions in the scientific field, President Kennedy bypassed the selection board process and directly selected him to the rank of Rear Admiral. The promotion was made permanent in April 1963. In 1965 Admiral Smith became the Director of the Special Projects Office, a position he held until his retirement in November 1977.
Vice Admiral Levering J. Smith was a most prominent force in the development and deployment of the FBM Weapons System, where all of its developmental and demonstration missile flight tests have been conducted at The Cape. Having been recognized for his achievements by many, his most cherished may have been when, in 1972, he received a High Order of Chivalry from Queen Elizabeth II of England making him an Honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Sadly he left this world on April 5, 1993, but his personal integrity and professionalism will always be remembered as the catalyst that produced an effective and reliable strategic deterrent for this Nation. The members of the Naval Submarine League here in Central Florida are proud to call their chapter the Levering Smith Chapter.