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McClellan-Smith Family collection

 Collection — Box: 20.0008 - Box 1
Identifier: 20.0008

Content Description

This collection relates to Viola B. McClellan (Women's Auxillary Corps) and Dewey S. McClellan (U.S. Army Air Corps) who both served in the European Theater of Operations as a pilot during World War II. This collection also relates to Charles S. Smith who served as a civilian contractor and Japanese prisoner of war at Wake Island in the Pacific Theater of Operations. This collection contains documents, ephemera, and photographs.


  • 1941-1945
  • Other: Date accessioned: 2020-11-28


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to all researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to quote, publish, broadcast or otherwise reproduce from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Florida State University Libraries as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

Biographical / Historical

Viola B. McClellan, also known as "Smitty," was born in Grant, Florida October 18, 1918, she died October 25, 2013. She was the last of 8 children. Her father homesteaded 160 acres on Mullet Creek. Her brother, Charles Elmer Smith, was captured by the Japanese in 1941 on Wake Island. Viola wanted to do something to help bring him home so she enlisted in the Woman’s Army Corp in 1942.

Viola attended basic training and Officers Candidate School in Des Moines, Iowa. She was commissioned a 2nd Lt in February 1943. She was sent to Spokane, Washington as Company Commander of 300 enlisted women and four other officers. This was the first company of WAC’s in Spokane. From there Viola went to overseas training at Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia. Without knowing where they were going, 18,000 men and 500 women crammed onboard the refitted troopship RMS Queen Elizabeth sailing out of New York and headed for Europe. As they were debarking in Scotland, they announced the invasion of France (D-Day, June 6, 1944).

Thirty of the women including Viola were assigned to the 5th Army Airways Communication System based in London. They were the first WAC’s to be assigned to the AACS in London and arrived just as the buzzbombs were bombarding. Viola’s primary job was to establish living quarters for 30 enlisted WACs. The women were organized into a company that preformed teletype operations, worked as drivers and administrative specialists, censored outgoing mail among other duties. They worked long hours six days a week while dodging the V1s and V2s.

Viola met her future husband, Captain Dewey S. McClellan, at a dinner in Hyde Park for 60 AACS people. Both were Captains and both part of the AACS. Dewey was from California and Viola from Florida. They were married on July 1, 1945 at St Peters Church on Vere St. in London. Viola was able to get a wedding dress from the Red Cross. All AACS personnel in the London area, officer and enlisted, were invited to attend the wedding and reception held at the WAC’s billets. They honeymooned in Torquay in the south of England.

After the victory in Japan, the AACS headquarters was moved to Wiesbaden, Germany. In Wiesbaden Viola set up housing for her WACs. She and Dewey were unable to get quarters together and eventually decided to go home. They were able to fly back to the US in a B-17, Dewey being one of the pilots. Unfortunately, her homecoming was bittersweet as she found out that her brother was one of 97 civilian prisoners on Wake Island gunned down by the Japanese in October 1943.

Charles Elmer Smith or Elmer as everyone called him, was born in Grant Florida on January 15, 1916 and he died October 1943. He was the 7th child and my Mother, Viola B Smith, was the 8th. They were close and being the youngest two, grew up together. My Mother has written a paper entitled “What I remember about Charles Elmer Smith." This paper describes their relationship.

Smith was a civilian construction worker, welder, on Wake Island in 1941 helping to construct an air base. He was one of 1150 civilian contractors captured by the Japanese in December of that year. Soon after this happened Viola enlisted in the Woman’s Army Corp to help bring him home faster. According to my mother, Grandma traveled to Cassadaga, FL in hopes of gaining spiritual information on her son.

My Mother found out after the war ended that he never made it off Wake Island. Elmer and 97 other civilian prisoners were gunned down by the Japanese in October 1943. In 1946 a newspaper article told of several survivors of Japanese prison camps getting in touch with Uncle Elmer’s parents relating what a wonderful job he did helping man the guns during the battle. He was also given command of the men remaining on the island. The letter from the Navy included the following: “The knowledge that your son was doing his part for the defense of this nation should console you in your bereavement.”

Dewey S McClellan was born in Oceanside, California on July 25,1920 and he died July 9,1998. He received his associate degree in June 1940 from Taft Junior College. In October of that year he attended a Private Flying School in Santa Maria, California for 8 weeks. He graduated November 30, 1940. As Dewey was eager to fly and the US was not in WW II yet, he and a friend looked into flying for the Royal Canadian Air Force. Instead Dewey became an Aviation Cadet in the US Army. He graduated from the Air Corps Training Center at Luke Field in Arizona on January 9, 1942. He went into active service January 9, 1942 as a second lieutenant and was stationed at Morrison Field, Florida. He was assigned to the Air Corp Ferring Command. Dewey flew four-engine aircraft from the US to England and the US to India. He was a crew commander and was assigned to the 3rs ferrying group of the Air Transport Command. Later Captain Dewey McClellan became a pilot and Communications Officer for the 5th Army Airways Communication System based in London. He installed and flight checked communications equipment and navigational aids for all aircraft, US and allied, in the European Theater of operations.

London was where he met his future wife, my mother, Captain Viola Smith. They were both part of the 5th AACS and met at a wiener roast in Hyde Park. They were married July 1, 1945 in the Church of England on Vere Street in London. All AACS personal in the London area, officer and enlisted, were invited to attend the wedding and reception. They honeymooned in Torquay in the south of England. After victory in Japan, the AACS headquarters was moved to Wiesbaden, Germany. Unable to get quarters together, they eventually were able to fly back to the US in a B-17, Dewey being one of the pilots. Dewey’s date of separation was December 29, 1946.

These biographies were written by Susan Smith, the donor of this collection, in November 2020. Susan Smith is the daughter of Viola B. McClellan and Dewey S. McClellan.


2.5 Linear Feet (1 oversized box (30x30x3))

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Transferred from the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience to FSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives in July 2022.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Collection donated by the daughter of Dewey and Viola Smith, Susan Smith.

McClellan-Smith Family collection
Beatrice Dain
December 10, 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the FSU Special Collections & Archives Repository

116 Honors Way
PO Box 3062047
Tallahassee FL 32306-2047 US