A veritable blizzard of media accounts followed the death on 26 December 2023 of Tom Smothers, the senior half of the famed Smothers Brothers, whose show-business credentials date to the 1960s. The purpose of this post is not to add to that blizzard; on the contrary, my initial intention was simply to briefly highlight that the brothers (in what I thought was a not-well-known fact) had been evacuated from the Philippines not long before the Pearl Harbor attack brought the U.S. into WWII; and — a slightly better-known fact — that the brothers’ father, a Major in the U.S. Army, later died while in Japanese captivity. My initial post, consisting of a grand total of four lines, has since been transformed into this somewhat more extensive report.
Why the changed plans, and what did that involve? My initial reaction soon changed when I looked through the flood of accounts about Tom Smothers and his family. I then decided to look more closely into the whole family’s history prior to the immediate post-WWII period. Given that context, my revised decision resulted from the fact that virtually all of the stories about the Smothers family displayed one or more of the following shortcomings — information was either non-existent, incomplete, and/or just plain wrong. (That verdict applies, for example, to the article whose link is attached at the bottom, along with two illustrative paragraphs from the article, which are excerpted from about 1/3 of the way into the article. The verdict even applies to the Wikipedia entry on the brothers.)
To make it clear at the outset, however, this narrative does not seek to present a comprehensive review of the family’s history; nor does it deal in any way with the Smothers Brothers’ show-business history, which, as noted, has been covered by innumerable writers. Its purposes are twofold: to present the highlights of the missing and thus almost completely unknown record of the head of the Smothers family prior to his arrival in the Philippines in 1940; and to clarify the almost always incorrect, and often even badly-garbled “facts,” relating to the Smothers children’s births and their arrival in and later evacuation from the Philippines.