The Challenges of Protecting the “Street Without Joy”

Frederick Smith


Fred grew up as an Army “Brat,” the son of a Minnesota farmer who joined the Army in 1940 and was a WWII Veteran serving in the Pacific. Fred was born in California in 1943 and lived in many places before graduating in 1961 from high school in Wiesbaden, Germany. He joined the Class of 1965, and, after graduating, he completed Airborne and Ranger training and was assigned to Korea in 1966. He became Company CO of the 633rd Engineer Company (LE) as a 2LT because so many of the Company Grade officers were required in Vietnam. The 633rd maintained roads and bridges throughout the I Corps area south of the DMZ. In 1967-68, Fred was CO of a Basic training Company at Ft. Campbell and then attended the Engineer Career Course. He spent 1969 in Vietnam assigned to the 19th Combat Engineer Battalion, where he was Company CO and S-3. The 19th was located on Landing Zones along QL 1, the main road in Binh Dinh and Quang Ngai Provinces. Its primary mission was to upgrade and pave QL 1, the infamous “Street Without Joy.” Daily minesweeping, road and bridge construction, difficult worksites, and convoy security in a hostile environment helped contribute to the death of 105 soldiers of the 19th Battalion in Vietnam. Fred left the Army in 1970 and settled with his family in Pennsylvania to pursue a career in heavy industry. He joined Lukens Steel Company as an Engineer and retired over 30 years later as the SVP of Operations. In this interview Fred discusses life growing up in the Army, his experiences at West Point, his assignments in the Army, and his civilian career. He highlights the principles of team building and leadership that apply in combat as well as in running a manufacturing plant.


conflicts Vietnam War Cold War
topics Military Families Life After Military Character USMA 1965
interviewer Fred Laughlin
date 09 October 2017


name Frederick Smith
institution USMA
graduation year 1965
service Engineer
unit 633rd Engineer Co. (LE) Korea, 19th Engineer Bn. (Combat) Vietnam
specialty Basic Training Company Command
service dates 1965 1970