Frederick Wallace Smith – The Man Behind FedEx

Photo Credit: U.S. Army

Many of us know about Frederick Wallace Smith, the founder, chairman, and CEO of FedEx. However, not all of us know about his beginnings, the idea that cemented the birth of FedEx, and where he learned the needed skills for commandeering the game-changing trend of the world’s first express overnight delivery service.

Fred Smith was born in Marks, Mississippi on August 11, 1944. His father, James Frederick Smith, was the founder of the Toddle House restaurant chain and the Dixie Greyhound Lines (formerly known as the Smith Motor Coach Company). His father died when he was only four which left him and his siblings to be raised by his mother and uncles.

As a young boy, Smith suffered from Legg-Calvé-Perthes syndrome which was a potentially crippling disease. In a manner reminiscent of Forrest Gump, this congenital birth defect caused him to wear braces and walk with the aid of crutches for most of his early life. Thankfully, he eventually grew out of the disease and even played both basketball and football.

Photo Credit: OV-10 Squadron

Influenced by his great interest in flying, he was able to become an amateur pilot as a teen which later on helped develop his skills as a Forward Air Controller, flying in the back seat of the OV-10. He studied Economics at Yale University in 1962 and it was there that his idea for an overnight delivery service was born when he wrote a paper for one of his professors. After graduation, Fred Smith enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served for three years from 1966 to 1969.

Photo Credit: Blue Air Training

He served two tours of duty in Vietnam and was honorably discharged in 1969. He was ranked as Captain and received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts. He also served as a Forward Air Controller for the OV-10 Bronco.

As one of the most versatile aircraft used by the US Army, the OV-10 Bronco was the source of many victories during the Vietnam War. During that time, the OV-10’s unique adaptability enabled it to perform many missions for the Marines, Air Force, and Navy. And although it is slower than jets, it is easier to maneuver. It is also faster than helicopters and more tactically versatile. Combine all of those characteristics with being primarily a forward air control aircraft equipped with machine guns, bombs, and rockets and you get the perfect reconnaissance aircraft capable of being ferocious in an instant.

Photo Credit: OV 10 Bronco

As a forward air controller, Smith’s task was to locate the enemy and quickly report their location as well as their strength. It was the FAC’s mission to call in the heavy artillery to reduce or even eliminate the threat. But even without the help of heavy artillery, the OV-10 Bronco is capable of inflicting a lot of damage on its own while waiting for backup. And if the situation is right, backup won’t even be needed. This is why during its arrival in Vietnam in 1968, the aircraft quickly developed a reputation that made the Viet Cong think twice about trying to shoot at it. 

In addition to the Marine Corps citations that he earned in ground combat, he also flew over 200 ground-support missions as a forward air control in OV-10 Broncos.

Photo Credit: U.S. Army

On February 28, 2014, during the “Battlefield to Boardroom” event at the Pentagon, he would later relate that “Everything that went into FedEx that made the business what it is today relates to what I learned in the Marine Corps and I’ve always been grateful for that education and for those I’ve served with”. According to him, his wartime experiences gave him a deep appreciation not only for the leadership qualities of Marines but also for their organizational structure.

Using everything he learned, he integrated air-ground operations and ensured that everything from the pickup and delivery personnel to the pilots was all well-coordinated. And that is how, to this day, he makes every FedEx experience outstanding. That is also how a military forward air controller started one of America’s greatest companies.

Never Forget: Why our OV-10 Squadron Mission is More Important than Ever.

Never Forget: Why our OV-10 Squadron Mission is More Important than Ever.

When we founded OV-10 Squadron, our mission was two-fold. To protect and rebuild as many of these legendary aircraft as possible. And to keep the memories alive of American men and women whose lives were connected to them.

Since we started down our path, we’ve been joined by dozens of other supporters, cheerleaders, and champions. We’ve received thousands of emails from people who love what we’re doing, encouraging us every step of the way.

We’ve also been made well aware that both the OV-10s and those who served around them are departing us at an alarming rate. As part of a growing community of people working together to create legacies from these legends, we’re working at warp speed to save as many aircraft as we can and share the stories of their impact.

Last week, one of the original designers of the OV-10, KP Rice, passed away. It was his vision that helped change the way America tackles missions in hostile environments. And it’s our vision that will ensure his lives on.

 Thank you to everyone who has supported us along the way. And to KP Rice for sparking the idea that impacted so many lives. We look forward to continuing our work together.

Top 5 Things We Love About the OV-10; In Memory of KP Rice who passed away December 26, 2019

Top 5 Things We Love About the OV-10; In Memory of KP Rice who passed away December 26, 2019

America lost one of the good ones. One of the designers of the original OV-10 Bronco, KP Rice, passed away over the Christmas holidays. An aviation trailblazer who was also known for his efforts to bring the flying car to a two-car garage near you, we simply can’t thank him enough for his contributions to American innovation.
In honor of that, we’ve put together a list of our Top 5 Things We Love About the OV-10.
  1. Portability. The OV-10 was built so it could be transported on the back of a truck in a standard shipping container, then put back together with a box of ordinary tools stowed in the aircraft itself.
  2. No Runway Required. Because the Bronco was purpose-built for jungle warfare and environments where clearings were few and far between, it had the ability to use roads as runways. That was all made possible thanks to a compact 20ft wingspan and a heavy trailing arm type landing gear with a tread of 6.5 ft.
  3. Low and Slow.  The twin-turboprop design meant that the aircraft could loiter for extended periods of time, perfect for reconnaissance and close air support.
  4. Low Cost. High Value. When the OV-10 was called back into active service to combat ISIS, it changed the way we think about aircraft deployment. At just a fraction of the cost per flying hour of the military’s most expensive fighter jets and bombers, the OV-10 proved that it could perform many of the same critical missions but for nowhere near the price tag.
  5. Versatility. From the desert to the ocean to the jungles of Asia and South America – the OV-10 proved it could handle just about anything the military could throw at it. It could pretty much fly or take off from anywhere and was just as good pounding enemy positions as it was at reporting them. It could even operate on high-octane automobile fuel if necessary with only a slight loss of power.
Of course, there are dozens more great design features, but those are some of our top ones. A sincere thank you to KP Rice for being such a vibrant contributor to America’s military.
The Aviation World Lost a Legend Colonel KP Rice (Retired), A Creator of the OV-10, Passes Away in Laguna Beach California

The Aviation World Lost a Legend Colonel KP Rice (Retired), A Creator of the OV-10, Passes Away in Laguna Beach California

As devoted fans of the OV-10 Bronco and its countless contributions to America’s military, we wanted to honor one of the visionaries who made it all happen; KP Rice.  KP Rice passed away on December 25th, but not before leaving a huge mark on the aviation world.

A decorated Colonel in the United States Military, KP retired to develop an aircraft that was badly needed to fill the gap between helicopters and jets during the Vietnam war. The North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco was born. A twin-turboprop light attack and observation aircraft was developed in the 1960s by KP as a special aircraft for counterinsurgency (COIN) combat, and one of its primary missions was as a forward air control (FAC) aircraft. 

To say the OV-10 Bronco was a success would be an understatement. The legendary aircraft was a force that saved countless lives in Vietnam, helped crush drug cartels in South America, and decades after first taking flight was used to hunt down ISIS targets in the Middle East. 

In terms of its design, 50 years later there is still nothing like it in the world today. It looks different. It flies differently. And it’s one of the most cost-effective military aircraft the US has ever had in its arsenal. KP Rice didn’t just help create an aircraft, he created a whole new way of tackling the challenge of counterinsurgency combat. 

The unparalleled views from the cockpit, compact design, and flexibility to operate just about anywhere are three of our favorite design features of the OV-10. But we’d like to hear from you too. What is your favorite design feature of the OV-10? 

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