A Sentimental Journey
On April 7, 2000, John and Corrine Afton of
Benton, Kansas traveled to Magdalena, New Mexico to visit the
last residence of Albert Daniel Smith, John Afton’s uncle,
before Albert D. entered the service of his country on 20 March
Albert Daniel Smith was the son of Albert
Smith and Nancy Belle (Smith). He was born in Denison, Grayson
County, Texas on 26 January 1909.
Albert’s mother, Nancy Belle Smith, was born
in Hunt County, Texas on 9 February 1879. She is buried in
Albert’s maternal grandfather, John James
Smith (1834-1924) was a Texas pioneer, railroad builder and
Indian fighter. He and other family members helped build the
“Wrong Way Railroad” from Cairo, Illinois to Chicago about 1850,
moving to Hunt County, Texas in 1855. In Texas, John Smith
served as a Texas Ranger and Sheriff of Hunt County.
The Aftons found items pertaining to the life
and death of Albert D. Smith among the possessions of John
Afton’s mother (Albert Smith’s sister) Bettie Ethel (Smith)
Afton, following her death in 1992.
Albert had another sister, Zadia Marie (Smith)
Kinkade, who is also deceased.
Albert was inducted into the US Army on 20
March 1941 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was assigned to the 200th
Coast Artillery, Battery C. After training at Fort Bliss, Texas,
the unit was sent to the Philippines. Albert became a prisoner
of war when the unit was captured at Bataan on 9 April 1942.
Albert survived the Death March of Bataan and was a POW for
In October 1944, as General MacArthur prepared
to return to the Philippines, 1,800 prisoners of war were placed
on an unmarked ship by the Japs for shipment to Japan. An
American submarine sank the ship on 24 October 1944. Only eight
men survived — Albert was not one of them.
Among the items discovered by the Aftons were
personal letters and pictures from Albert’s friends in
Magdalena, New Mexico which the Aftons donated to the Box Car
Museum in Magdalena.
“We assume that Albert went to Magdalena for
work as letters to his sister in Benton, Kansas mentioned
working in the mine and being a wood and coal yard operator. He
wrote that his 1931 Ford truck was left with Tom Butterfield.
“Our day in Magdalena was very rewarding. We
visited the Box Car Museum, City Hall in the old depot, the
Market Place, the cemetery and the office of the ‘Magdalena
Mountain Mail.’ All persons were friendly and interested in the
mementos that we donated. We enjoyed lunch at a restaurant on
the west edge of the city before leaving town.
“On Sunday, 9 April 2000 at 10:00 a.m., we
attended an impressive ceremony at the Eternal Flame by the
Bataan Memorial Building in Santa Fe conducted by the New Mexico
National Guard. The American Flag was lowered and the white flag
of surrender was raised for the ceremony. Surviving veterans
were introduced and several were awarded the medals they should
have received years ago. At the close of the ceremony, the flag
of surrender was lowered and the American Flag was raised again.
“We were pleased to meet Arthur B. Smith who
remembered Albert because they had the same surname.
“A lovely reception was held following the
ceremony. All of the members of the National Guard were very
gracious and showed a genuine interest in each veteran and/or
“In a small way, we have placed parts of
Albert’s life in the hands of those who care. We appreciate the
freedom that we enjoy because of the life he gave. We
congratulate the New Mexico National Guard and others for trying
to keep the memory alive of those who served and died for their
country. God Bless America!”