Fred Eliphaz Smith was born on 29 March 1873, in Rockford, Illinois and graduated from the University of North Dakota in the spring of 1894.
Fred Smith joined the North Dakota National Guard in April 1898 and was assigned to Company D, which drilled in Devils Lake, North Dakota. On 16 May 1898, the Guard promoted him to regimental sergeant major and on June 21, transferred him to Company K in Dickinson, North Dakota. With the outbreak of the Spanish–American War, the eight North Dakota National Guard units were formed into the 1st Infantry Regiment and sent to Manila Bay in the Philippines in July 1898. On 6 February 1899, the US Senate approved the terms of the peace treaty, ending the war with Spain. However, the fighting was not over. Rebel leader Emilio Aguinaldo led an insurrection movement against the American forces. Fred Smith was summoned to Manila and notified that the next day he would be given an exam prepared by West Point instructors to determine if he would qualify to be an officer in the Regular Army. He aced the test and was commissioned a second lieutenant on 24 February. On 26 July 1899, Second Lieutenant Fred Smith was transferred to the 36th US Volunteers. After the Americans defeated Aguinaldo, Fred Smith returned to the United States. During his stateside service, he rose to the rank of captain in the US Army. After the US entered the First World War, it needed qualified officers. The Army noticed Fred Smith's leadership ability and promoted him to major on 3 August 1917, then to lieutenant colonel on 29 August. He was assigned to the 15th Infantry and sailed to England on 25 April 1918. Lieutenant Colonel Smith arrived in France on 14 May 1918 and was assigned to the 308th Infantry Regiment, 77th Division on 12 July, and went to the front lines on 17 July 1918.
The 308th Infantry were in action on 29 September 1918, near Binarville, France when communications with the forward battalion and Regimental Headquarters were interrupted by the infiltration of small parties of the enemy armed with machine guns. Whilst attempting to re-establish communications Lieutenant Colonel Smith was mortally wounded.
For his actions on 29 September 1918 Lieutenant Colonal Fred E Smith was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation reads:1
"When communication from the forward regimental post of command to the battalion leading the advance had been interrupted temporarily by the infiltration of small parties of the enemy armed with machineguns, Lt. Col. Smith personally led a party of 2 other officers and 10 soldiers, and went forward to reestablish runner posts and carry ammunition to the front line. The guide became confused and the party strayed to the left flank beyond the outposts of supporting troops, suddenly coming under fire from a group of enemy machineguns only 50 yards away. Shouting to the other members of his party to take cover this officer, in disregard of his danger, drew his pistol and opened fire on the German guncrew. About this time he fell, severely wounded in the side, but regaining his footing, he continued to fire on the enemy until most of the men in his party were out of danger. Refusing first-aid treatment he then made his way in plain view of the enemy to a handgrenade dump and returned under continued heavy machinegun fire for the purpose of making another attack on the enemy emplacements. As he was attempting to ascertain the exact location of the nearest nest, he again fell, mortally wounded."
Lieutenant Colonel Fred Smith is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial, Plot A, Row 7, Grave 18.