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On April 17, 1920, Paul Smith reluctantly told Chief of Flying James C. Edgerton that he was leaving the service. According to Smith, his wife "has insisted that I cease flying at once as the nervous strain to which she is subjected is too much for her to stand." This was a sentiment undoubtedly shared by the families of other pilots.

Mrs. Smith's concerns were no doubt heightened by Smith's crash three months earlier. In January, the engine in his de Havilland airplane quit in a snowstorm. Smith tried to glide his airplane down into a valley, but it struck treetops and remainded suspended there for a few moments, during which he was able to jump clear of the airplane. He cracked two ribs in his jump, and had to walk five miles in deep snow for assistance.

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