C. Rodney Smith, 97, an Army major general who in retirement served for seven years as director of Radio Free Europe, died of respiratory failure Nov. 28 at his home in Annandale.
As director of the broadcast agency from 1960 to 1967, Gen. Smith was said to have helped resuscitate its reputation in the wake of criticism that it beamed more propaganda than news behind the Iron Curtain.
He spent 31 years in the Army Corps of Engineers before retiring as a deputy chief in 1957.
After working three years as a vice president at International Telephone & Telegraph Corp., he went to Radio Free Europe in Munich after the agency was partly blamed for the unsuccessful Hungarian uprising against Communist rule in 1956.
Gen. Smith helped instill a feeling of restraint in the broadcast material and boosted morale among the employees, said Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, who in the 1960s inspected Radio Free Europe as a State Department consultant. "He instilled a greater sense of relevance and a greater degree of its ability to work," Brzezinski said in an interview.
In Munich, Gen. Smith also added more powerful transmitters to increase the broadcast signal's reach across Eastern Europe.
After retiring from Radio Free Europe, he spent the next decade as an arbitrator to the International Court of Arbitration and was a consultant to the Board for International Broadcasting.
Gen. Smith was born in Kanopolis, Kan., and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1926.
He returned to West Point from 1936 to 1940 to teach courses in engineering and military history. After serving in World War II, he graduated from the Army Industrial College. He was promoted to major general in 1956.
In 1957, he moved to Paris to become vice president of International Standard Electric Corp., a subsidiary of ITT, where he worked on telecommunications projects for NATO.
Gen. Smith then began heading ITT's communications division in Chicago, where he oversaw the design and placement of ground communications systems at Air Force missile installations.
Among his awards were the Legion of Merit and the Cavalier Cross of the Order of Merit of the Polish Government in 1998.
He was a member of Army Navy Country Club and the Society of American Military Engineers.
His first wife, Ethel Howe Smith, died in 1967. A son from that marriage, Lt. Col. Rodney Smith, was killed in 1967, while serving in the Army during the Vietnam War.
Survivors include his wife of 29 years, Katherine de Dory Smith of Annandale; a son from the first marriage, retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony A. Smith of Alexandria; a sister; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.