Mr. Smilanich entered the Army on November 25, 1942. Home at entry: Buhl, Minnesota.
He served as a Technician Fifth Grade and tank driver with the 67th Armored Regiment of the Second Armored “Hell on Wheels’ Division in Africa, Sicily, England, Normandy Invasion, and the Battle of the Bulge. Smilanich spent three years as a tank driver, and played a part in battles in Africa to the invasion at Normandy to liberating Belgium and Holland.
He was wounded in action and developed frost bitten feet. He was hospitalized at 55th General Hospital in Birmingham, England.
Moviemakers sought out Mr. Smilanich to gain his insight for the movie Fury. “Kind of tough, there,” he said. “I can’t tell you, how it was. I wouldn’t give up my experiences if I had for a million dollars, but I wouldn’t take five cents to go through it again.”
Mr. Smilanich shared the following: “The Second Armored Division was asked to be an honor guard at the Potsdam Conference. This duty delayed my return home by three months. We stood in review for many dignitaries including (Generals) Patton, Spaatz, Eisenhower, Bradley, Montgomery, Churchill, and Stalin. Our division also received the Belgian Fourragere, a unit citation.”
Mr. Smilanich was awarded the following: Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with six bronze battle stars, World War II Victory Medal, and Belgian Fourragere.
He was honorably discharged on November 17, 1945.