Arthur Ryan Smith, C.M., D.F.C., O.C., A.O.E., Hon. LL.D., was born in Calgary on 16 May 1919, the son of Arthur LeRoy Smith, K.C. and Sara Isobel Ryan. He received his early education in Calgary and at Shawnigan Lake School, British Columbia. At age 16 Smith began working at the Turner Valley oilfield. He continued working in the oilfields for 4 years, until 1940 when he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. During the Second World War he served in 34 operations as an RAF Pathfinder Pilot overseas and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.