U.S.S. Little Rock CL 92
Commanding Officer Biography

Captain Henri H. Smith-Hutton

07 Jul 46 - 10 Mar 47

Page last updated: 15 March, 2020

Henri Smith-Hutton Photo


Henri Harold Smith-Hutton was born September 8, 1901, in Alliance, Nebraska.  He was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1918, was graduated and commissioned Ensign in June, 1922, and by subsequent promotions in grade attained the rank of Captain to date from June 21, 1942.  His transfer to the Retired List of the Navy dates from June 30, 1952.

After graduation in 1922, he served in the Asiatic Fleet, consecutively in the USS HURON, flagship; USS BLACK HAWK, USS PEARY, and the battleship IDAHO, until  MAY 29, 1926.  During the following three years, he was a student of the Japanese language, attached to the American Embassy, Tokyo, Japan.

Returning to the United States in the fall of 1929, he was on duty in the Office of Naval Intelligence, Navy Department, Washington, D.C., from November, 1929 until June, 1930.  He then reported in the Newport News (Virginia) Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company for duty in connection with fitting out the USS HOUSTON, commissioned on June 17, 1930.  That cruiser later became flagship of the Asiatic Fleet, and he served aboard as Aide and Flag Lieutenant, and later as Aide and Fleet Intelligence Officer on the staff of the Commander in Chief, Asiatic Fleet.  He then had shore duty at the American Embassy, Tokyo November 1932 - April 1935, as Assistant Naval Attaché, and when detached he returned to the Navy Department, for brief duty in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

After serving the year July 1935-1936 as Executive Officer of the USS LAWRENCE, he was assigned as Communications Officer of the USS AUGUSTA, flagship of the Asiatic Fleet, serving until February 8, 1937, and thereafter for two years as Fleet Intelligence Officer on the staff of the Commander in Chief.  Returning to the American Embassy, Tokyo, Japan, in April, 1939, he became Naval Attaché and Naval Attaché for Air, and was so serving when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, T.H. on December 7, 1941, precipitating the United States entry into World War II.  He was interned, but in June, 1942 was repatriated and returned to the United States. (See Note 1 below.)

He reported in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations Washington, D.C., and had duty at Headquarters of the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet as an Intelligence Officer on his staff.  For “outstanding services” while serving in that duty, from December 18, 1942, to October 12, 1944, he was awarded the Legion of Merit.  The citation in part states:  “.....In charge of the Operational Information Section until July 1943, (he) ...organized the Combat Intelligence Division...and served as Head of the new division until his detachment.... By his skill, perseverance and highly specialized knowledge, together with his effective plans for the prompt dissemination of intelligence, Captain Smith-Hutton contributed materially to the successful prosecution of the war.”

From October, 1944 until June, 1945, he was Commanding Officer of Destroyer Squadron 15, Pacific Fleet. His squadron was then converted to Mine Squadron 21 which he commanded until August, 1945.  Later that month he was assigned to the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet (Admiral C. W. Nimitz), and ordered to the Pacific Fleet Liaison Group, Headquarters of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in Japan, and when that group was dissolved in February 1946, he became Chief of Staff to Commander, Naval Forces Japan (Vice Admiral R. M. Griffin).  In June, 1946, he was ordered as Commanding Officer of the cruiser LITTLE ROCK, serving in that command until February, 1947.

He returned to the Navy Department, and had temporary duty in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, and was assigned as Naval Attaché and Naval Attaché for Air to France and Switzerland, in residence at the American Embassy, Paris, France.  He remained there on duty until May 31, 1952, when he returned to the Untied States and had temporary duty in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department, until his retirement became effective on June 30, 1952.

In addition to the Legion of Merit, Captain Smith-Hutton has the Victory Medal;  the Yangtze Service Medal;  the China Service Medal;  the American Defense Service Medal, Base Clasp;  the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal;  the American Campaign Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal.

Official home address of record;  Fairfield, Connecticut

NAVY-24 JULY 1952

Ed. Note: "Thanks" to Marcia Smith-Hutton, daughter of Captain Smith-Hutton,  for her contribution of both  information and the photograph of the Captain.

Smith-Hutton in Dress Whites

Captain Henri H. Smith-Hutton

After retiring from the navy, Smith-Hutton remained in Paris; a colleague from the Naval Academy who preceded him as naval attaché in Paris put Smith-Hutton in contact with Leland Stowe, news chief of RFE (Radio Free Europe) at the time. Stowe hired Smith-Hutton to be chief of RFE’s Paris news bureau; as such, Smith-Hutton directed RFE’s effort to gather news from France that might be of interest to the target audience as well as news about the large Eastern European exile communities in France to be relayed to Munich for translation and broadcast. Smith-Hutton remained in the position for six years, managing an office that eventually included three exiles and two other Americans, an assistant and an experienced newsman.

In 1958, RFE leadership suggested that Smith-Hutton make the move to Munich and take on a new position; he declined out of a desire not to move his family and instead opted to leave the organization. Smith-Hutton took a position with the Paris office of Bache and Company, an American financial services provider; he worked for Bache until his retirement and return to the United States in 1969. Smith-Hutton passed away in 1977 in Vista, California.

The Smith-Hutton collection contains transcripts of an oral interview relating to the postwar activities of the Radio Free Europe in France. The Henri Smith-Hutton Collection is open to the public and available for research in the Hoover Archives Reading Room.

Also: Jane Ellen Smith-Hutton, 91, died Sept. 22, 2002, in Southern Pines, NC. She was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on April 4, 2003, beside her husband, Capt. Henri H. Smith-Hutton, USN. After Pearl Harbor in 1942 she was interned with her husband and daughter in Tokyo in the American Embassy where her husband was Naval Attaché. After repatriation aboard the Gripsholm early in the war, she served at OSS headquarters as Washington manager for Far East MO (Morale Operations), and liaison to Project Marigold, producing and disseminating slanted covert propaganda and rumors in Japan and China. After the war the Smith-Huttons were posted to Paris where they remained for 22 years before retiring to Palo Alto, Cal. She is survived by daughters Cynthia Bowers, New York and Marcia Smith-Hutton, Boston; and two grandchildren, New York.

Arlington Cemetery

DATE OF BIRTH: 09/08/1901
DATE OF DEATH: 04/04/1977
(703) 607-8000

DATE OF BIRTH: 10/19/1912
DATE OF DEATH: 09/22/2002
(703) 607-8000

Captain Henri Smith-Hutton and his wife Jane BOTH had a significant impact on the progress and outcome of World War II.

Click here to read excerpts from Smith-Hutton's Oral History.

For additional insights, see also "Spies In Our Midst" on this web site.


1. It has been reported that on 10 July 1941 U.S. Military Attaché Smith-Hutton at Tokyo reported that the Japanese Imperial Navy was secretly practicing aircraft torpedo attacks against large ships in Ariake Bay, Japan. It should be noted that
Ariake Bay bay closely resembles Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

2. Here is a VERY interesting link to material pertaining to Smith-Hutton and others studying Japanese prior to WWII.

3. The U.S. Naval Institute oral history project has a two volume transcript of interviews with Captain Smith-Hutton. There are a total of 56 interviews conducted by Captain Paul Ryan USN between
December 1973 and August 1974. Anyone with an interest in the operations of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet during the pre-World War II period will find much of interest in this memoir.

In Volume I Smith-Hutton describes the experience of being interned in hostile Japan for the first six months of World War II, then being repatriated to the United States on board the neutral liner Gripsholm.

Volume II begins with Smith-Hutton's return to the United States and his service from 1942 to 1944 as fleet intelligence officer on the staff of Admiral E.J. King, staff duty in the Pacific, and command of the cruiser LITTLE ROCK.  Following temporary duty on the OpNav staff, he was U.S. Naval Attaché and Attaché for Air to France and Switzerland, retiring from active duty in 1952. Following his retirement he remained in Europe to work for Radio Free Europe.

Smith-Hutton on USS Isabel
General Iwane Matsui, Imperial Japanese Army,
Commander of Japanese Expeditionary Forces in the Yangtze Valley

Salutes as he boards USS Isabel (PY-10) at Shanghai, China, circa January 1938.

Greeting him, with back to camera in center, is Admiral Harry E. Yarnell, USN, Commander in Chief, U.S. Asiatic Fleet. At left, also with back to camera, is the Asiatic Fleet's Intelligence Officer, Lieutenant Commander Henri H. Smith-Hutton, USN.

Note Isabel's deck ventilator and hatch.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Crew Remembrances & Anecdotes

Received 01 May 2008 from Commander Ed Daly
USS Little Rock (1961-1963, 1974-75)

    I had a tour of duty with the U.S. Naval Attaché, Paris, France as a YN1 from July  '55 to July '58.  During that time Capt. Smith-Hutton was the Director of Radio Free Europe.  He was the Naval Attaché in Paris in the late 40's and stayed in Paris when he retired.  He had his mail sent to the Attaché's office and dropped in once or twice a week to pick up his mail.  We had many conversations during his visits.  He was devastated when the Russians invaded Hungary and put down the Hungarian revolution because RFE was broadcasting constantly to the effect "take up your arms against the Communists and we will help."  He was close to tears as he said the Russians were shooting the roofs off the buildings in Hungary because the Hungarian people were on the roofs looking for the promised U. S. air strikes.

    Shortly thereafter he resigned as Director, stayed in Paris, and took a job with a brokerage house.  He continued to get his mail at our office and now that the statute of limitations has run its course, I can tell you that I took some of his household effects back in my shipment at the end of my tour.  I was being assigned to 90 Church St., New York City, and he wanted his daughter to have the items.  One was a grandfather clock and another was a set of china.  The other items escape me now.  His daughter picked them up at our house in New Brunswick, NJ after we got back.

    Ironically, he was also the Naval Attaché in Tokyo when Pearl Harbor was attacked and was interred by the Japanese along with his wife, but was released in a couple of months I believe by an exchange with the Japanese Embassy personnel in DC.

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Commander Arthur Schultz the Little Rock's doctor, in a letter to his wife dated 24 July 1946 had this to say about Captain Smith-Hutton

"I rode back with Captain Smith-Hutton who is quite a fellow. He has a keen mind, is well informed, and has served in many important spots in his time. He speaks Japanese fluently - having been the U.S. Naval Attaché in Tokyo before the war. He was McArthur's Naval advisor during the war and has been a member of several Staffs in Washington. He is the opposite of Captain Miller -  allows no nonsense, does his job and expects the others to do their jobs. Fred (Hoeppner - the ship's navigator) looks a hundred percent better since the new captain came aboard since he is not being called all hours of the day and night."

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