On his return to the United States, Smith was promoted to major general in October 1942, and he assumed command of Marine Training Schools, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. In May 1943, Smith commanded the 2nd Marine Division, leading it in the invasion of Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands during 20–23 November 1943. In some of the war's heaviest fighting, Smith's Marines defeated the tenacious Japanese defenders at Betio Atoll. In April 1944, Smith became commanding general, Expeditionary Troops, Third Fleet. Smith's forces then captured the southern Palau Islands, and in September 1944, they occupied Ulithi, which became the hub of U.S. naval operations in the western Pacific. In December 1944, Smith assumed command of the Pacific Department, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, a post he held until the end of the war.
In February 1946, Smith assumed command of the Parris Island Marine Base in South Carolina. He retired from the Marines as a lieutenant general that December. Smith died at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, on 5 November 1975.
Edward F. Finch
Alexander, Joseph H. Utmost Savagery: The Three Days of Tarawa. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995.; Morison, Samuel Eliot. History of U.S. Naval Operations in World War II. 15 vols. Boston: Little, Brown, 1947–1962.; Sherrod, Robert. Tarawa: The Story of a Battle. Fredericksburg, TX: Nimitz Foundation, 1973.