Robert Holmes Smith, born at Harrellsville, North Carolina on 8 August 1898, was graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy on 6 June 1919. After duty in various surface ships, he served with the Submarine Service for 17 years.

He commanded Bonita (SS 165), was an instructor at the New London submarine school, a member of the Naval Academy staff, Submarine Gunnery Officer with the Bureau of Navigation, Navigation Officer in Pennsylvania (BB38), and Chief of Staff for Submarine Division, Atlantic Patrol Force.

Following promotion to captain, he commanded Sperry (AS 12) in the Pacific from May 1942 to January 1943, and was Commander of Squadron 2, Pacific Submarine Fleet, when he died in an airplane crash in California on 21 January 1943.