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Ankle Deep in Shell Casings

Shot down over Holland

Liberation from Moosburg

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Leonard Spivey was born on a farm five or six miles north of Artesia, New Mexico. At a very young age Spivey was on the farm. His father kept farming but they moved closer to the town of Artesia. Spivey’s mother wanted to the family to be closer to the schools. Spivey spent his teenage years there until he was 16 years old. Spivey worked later in a cafe part time. Spivey’s brothers had already come to San Jose California a few years prior and they were in the restaurant business. Spivey would go out in the summer and work for his brothers. This brought him to San Jose, California. His brother worked at a hamburger joint called the “Five Spot.” The Five Spot still exists today and has earned historical landmark status in San Jose. Spivey ended up staying in San Jose and went to high school at San Jose High School. Spivey graduated from there in 1939 and then entered San Jose State College. Spivey was there for one year and then transferred to the University of California Berkeley. Spivey was a junior when Pearl Harbor occurred. Spivey was sitting at his desk studying for final exams and his little radio on his desk was on. Suddenly the music stopped and on came the announcement that Pearl Harbor had just been attacked by Japanese aircraft. Spivey made his mind up that day that he was going to train to be in aviation. You had to have two years of college and be from 20 to 26 years of age. That requirement was soon relaxed and it became 18 to 26 years old and no college. You had to pass multiple examinations. Spivey applied in January 1942. Ever since Spivey was a kid he was interested in airplanes and in Artesia there was an old World War I pilot that everyone knew. He had a couple of biplanes in a dirt field. There is a lot of wind in that part and Spivey recalls seeing the man taking his biplanes up in the air and flying them against the wind creating a stationary effect. Spivey’s brother took flying lessons from the World War I veteran. Spivey wanted to be a fighter pilot. Spivey signed up at Moffett Field which is near San Jose. Spivey passed the physical examination. Spivey was put on active duty and assigned as an aviation cadet to a field near Phoenix, Arizona. Spivey went through a type of boot camp training and then officer candidate courses. Those lasted for about three months approximately. They then received orders with others to report to Primary Flying School. There they flew Stearman aircraft which were older aircraft designed for teaching people the basics of flying. It was a very demanding course. Within a few months they were at war. Everything was fast tracked. Everything was pushed. Spivey, on the whole, was trained very well. Spivey did very well in ground school. In flying, Spivey was slow to get to solo. It took him 12 hours before he could solo in the Stearman. Spivey was on the tail end of learning how to fly because they were going by the alphabet. His instructor was teaching a class for the first time. Spivey was behind in soloing hours. Others had as many as 40 hours solo time. You need 60 hours in primary flight training to become certified to be a pilot. Spivey was not able to finish with his class and that he would be alright as a transport pilot, but never as a fighter pilot. Between the examiners and Spivey, he thought he cannot start over so he washed out. Spivey asked for meteorology training for navigation. He was sent to Santa Ana Air Base for preflight training. Here they were classified. That is where they decided who was going to be a pilot bombardier or navigator. Many did not qualify. There was a 40 percent wash out rate.

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Leonard Spivey did very well in his training and was qualified to continue training as a navigator. Spivey went to Mather Air Base outside of Sacramento to continue his training and was number three in his class. He graduated from Mather on 21 November 1942 and commissioned as a second lieutenant. Spivey was asked if he would consider being an instructor there. Spivey of course said no. Spivey wanted to be assigned to a combat operational unit. That was not unusual at the time. Spivey was then posted to phase training for a B-17 outfit. This training took place at Ephrata, Washington. [Annotator’s Note: The Ephrata Municipal Airport is the modern day location of the former army air base.] They ended up there in the dead of winter and they could not fly for about two or three weeks. They were transferred to Blithe Field in California and the weather was great. Spivey was there for about six weeks. Orders came through that Spivey was going to be an instructor. Not long after that orders came through to be posted to an embryonic group that was just forming up. Spivey was the first navigator in the model crew of the 535th Squadron. Spivey was assigned to the 535th and ended up as the squadron navigator and they went through phase training there for about three months. They then went into combat training in Pueblo, Colorado. The crews were formed up in Pueblo. They did not know for sure that they were going to Europe but they knew in Colorado which men they were flying with. Orlo Koenig was Spivey’s pilot and he was a fine one. After a while in Pueblo there was a transfer. Ocie B. Jones became the flight leader. Ocie commanded the A flight of the squadron. The A flight leads the squadron. Spivey became Ocie Jones’s navigator. Spivey had to leave his original crew and they finished training in Pueblo. Spivey was then assigned to gear up for overseas duty and combat operations in a combat wing. This meant Europe. After gearing up in Kansas they fly their planes to Newfoundland. They had to wait there several days because of weather. Then they flew as a group to Scotland and then on to England. There they went into combat training and it was partly led by members of the Royal Air Force because of their experience flying over Europe. They were then posted to Ridgewell which was codenamed “Little Pie.” There is where the group remained throughout World War II. Their first mission was 22 June 1943 and they were in the 1st Combat Wing which became the 1st Air Division. Their sister group was the 91st Bomb Group which contained the “Memphis Belle.” Spivey got to Europe almost when the “Memphis Belle” had finished her 25 missions. Spivey flew with the 91st in training. They trained on a new type of radar. Spivey learned how to use the new G-Box type radar. Spivey went back with to his group and taught them how to use the new radar.

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Leonard Spivey enjoyed his baptism by fire on his first mission. Their first mission was on 22 June and they went to Antwerp. It was an aircraft factory. It was an old Ford or Chevrolet plant. They had their first casualty on that raid. They had three members of crews shot down and one plane shot down. They all got a good idea of what combat was like. Spivey had mixed feelings. He started feeling naturally that they were in a very risky business. There is a good chance that you may lose your life. The overwhelming attitude among the men was acceptance. The men responded with courage. Spivey believes that these things manifest themselves when you have a duty and you’re in combat. You want to survive and you want to win, but more importantly, you want to have victory over the enemy. The ability to handle all these pressures was unbelievable to Spivey. They had fighter escorts on their missions however at the beginning of Spivey’s combat experience fighter escort only provided cover up to the low countries. Belgium was as far as they could go. Beyond that the fighters did not have the range. This was in 1943. Spivey was on the plane “Georgia Rebel” with Ocie Jones. They had a process in place for navigation and Spivey was the lead navigator for his squadron the 535th Squadron. There was a group navigator as well. Spivey was put into group headquarters to take that navigator’s spot. On 24 July 1943, the group had a mission to Norway. It was the first ever of that type of mission. The 8th Air Force had two targets, one of which was an aluminum plant. Ocie Jones’s airplane was hit by flak over the target and it was the only aircraft hit that day. He could not fly back. They determined that they could not get back to England in their crippled condition. In any case the decision was made to bring the plane into neutral Sweden. They landed in a bog. “Georgia Rebel” did not come back and no one knew what had happened to the guys. The reports were that he had to peel out of the formation. The crew was interned in Sweden. There Spivey was without a crew. Spivey was then scattered about and flew on different aircraft.

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Leonard Spivey had to part ways with the “Georgia Rebel” and Ocie Jones. The next mission of importance was when Spivey was assigned to fly wing lead for missions in the latter part of July 1943. Hamburg was hit about three times and other places in Germany. Spivey was assigned as wing lead navigator for a mission into Germany and he recalls that it made him rather nervous, but he was excited. Spivey enjoyed the idea of leading the flight. He was very busy in his preparation, so he never had the opportunity to stop and think about being scared. A 20-millimeter shell shattered his instrument panel on this mission. Pieces of the instrument panel, including glass, hit his hand and caused some lacerations, nothing really serious. Spivey continued flying no problem. An order came through from headquarters and the 8th Air Force Bomber Command to report there for a briefing. Spivey was asked to accompany the commanding officer to go to Pinetree. They got into a staff car and headed to High Wycombe which was the location of Pinetree. High Wycombe is not too far from London. There bomber command had taken over an old girls’ school. It was a manor type house with a lot of land and rolling hills. This was Spivey’s most fascinating experience in World War II. Here he was a young lieutenant and everyone else was a field grade officer or generals. Spivey sat down at the table and everybody introduced around. The whole command staff from the 8th Air Force was there. There was a kiosk and guard station that had an elevator that led the men underground to a huge planning room. On the wall were charts of base locations for fighters and bombers. In the movie, “Twelve O’ Clock High” the room is the center piece of the movie and there is a famous scene where the general lifts up a ball bearing and says gentleman this is your target. Spivey notes that it did not happen like that at all. An intelligence officer did in fact stand up and say that they are planning a mission into Germany and that the target will be ball bearing plants. Spivey and the men there were briefed on the planning. They had a scale mock up of Schweinfurt. From the intelligence and reconnaissance they had the flak gun positions marked all around Schweinfurt and Spivey remembers counting 80 flak gun positions. It made Spivey shiver because he hated flak. When Spivey was looking at the table an RAF group captain came up and said they were thinking about coming in at 16,000 feet and Spivey recalls thinking well we will be a much easier target at 16,000 feet. In any case Spivey will never forget that experience. It was secret and highly classified at the time. Spivey got orders afterwards to fly missions and he flew them before Schweinfurt. This was in early August because he still had his lacerations from his wounds.

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Leonard Spivey notes that the Schweinfurt experience was his major experience in combat. It is considered to be one of the three biggest missions ever flown in Europe during World War II. It was not until 16 August that they had orders come through for the mission. There was to be two prongs of attack. The 1st Bomb Wing was going to Schweinfurt and the other bomb wing of the 8th was going to Regensburg to bomb an aircraft plant then head to Africa. The idea was that both wings would take off at the same time and divert and divide the opposition. It did not happen that way. It is a classic story of missed opportunities and unfortunate time sequences. Spivey was supposed to take off at 6:30am but they did not take off until midday. The weather and the visibility were not advantageous in the morning to get everyone in the air. The 3rd Bomb Wing did take off. The 3rd Bomb Wing had been in intensive training to take off in low visibility conditions. Spivey’s wing had not been trained, so it broke up the idea of tactically hitting Regensburg to draw fighters away from the Schweinfurt task force. That was the reason why Spivey’s group had such heavy losses. The Luftwaffe was able to attack the Regensburg Raid and then land refuel and be waiting for Spivey’s group. They had very heavy fighter opposition. The intensity of the attacks going in and out was unbelievable. It was scary. On the way out, the fighters came at them for another couple of hours. Spivey could see planes going down left and right. They got to the target fine and identified it no problem. There were several planes shot down going to and over the target. They saw the target and bombed and they did do enough damage to slow down ball bearing production. The Germans had to do other things to get ball bearings. The idea was that all machinery has to operate on ball bearings. Spivey remembers vividly coming under heavy attack. Spivey had two guns, one on the left and right side of his compartment. Spivey expended close to 4,000 rounds of 50-caliber ammunition. Spivey was tired walking back to base. On the way back Spivey could see plumes of smoke from where planes had crashed on the ground. They could almost fly those lines of smoke as landmarks to get home by. The 381st Bombardment Group was the heaviest hit of any group on that mission. Spivey’s group lost 11 out of 22 bombers going over the target. Some of them did not make it to the target. Most of the guys who were shot down did in fact survive by bailing out.

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Leonard Spivey did not have a full crew for the mission. On the Schweinfurt mission Spivey was the squadron lead navigator and flew in “Chapman’s Flying Circus.” Chapman had become a flight leader after Ocie Jones was shot down. Chapman was not assigned to fly to Holland. Spivey’s pilot was assigned to lead the group for their mission to Holland on 19 August 1943. Spivey was assigned to be the group’s lead navigator. Spivey remembers in the briefing room being approached by an officer and Spivey was still glassy eyed from Schweinfurt. He told Spivey that the war must go on. They proceeded to go uneventfully onto the target. Some of the other groups had to back out because of visibility issues. Spivey himself encountered no issues. Spivey had no problem pointing out the initial point and the target. For some reason another group was aborted because of visibility issues. Spivey’s wing did not get nor understand the order so they proceeded on to fly the mission. There was no reason in Spivey’s eyes to head back. They could see the target through broken clouds. It was a fluke mission because the wing leader of their wing did not drop bombs over the target. They turned after they dropped their bombs instead of staying on the initial point for one minute to gauge bomb damage. Spivey realized this was a critical error that made them sitting ducks. They went over the target again and encountered flak that damaged their right wing. They were losing gasoline and shortly after leaving the target they were attacked by Focke-Wulf fighters. Two attacked Spivey’s plane head on. The closing rate of speed is incredibly fast. Spivey was able to get off one burst on the fighters. The fighters had time to line up and figure out their plan of attack. After the pass, heavy smoke filled Spivey’s compartment. It was dark blue smoke, like insulation wires were on fire. Spivey called to the pilot and informed him they had heavy smoke. The answer was, “Bail out.” Spivey was not aware that the right wing was on fire. Spivey asked, “Did you say bail out?” The pilot said, “Bail out, bail out.” Spivey made sure the bombardier understood the order. Spivey turned to go to the hatch by his compartment. Spivey was ready to kick the emergency hatch open and at that point saw the pilot and they nodded to each other. Spivey opened the hatch and then dove out of the plane. Spivey was not aware of anything until he was hanging in the parachute. Spivey is not sure how it happened but he ended up alright. Spivey made sure to not pull his chord until he was away from the aircraft. Spivey does not remember when he pulled his chord. Spivey remembers his crotch was in pain from the straps yanking on him. Spivey was at about 19,000 feet he guesses when he pulled the parachute. Spivey had a long way to fall.

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Leonard Spivey was hanging in his parachute and it was cold. Spivey was not uncomfortable because he thinks he had a lot of adrenaline going. Spivey had his collar up and could only see what was in front of him. Spivey remembers swaying back and forth. Spivey was relieved naturally that he had made it out of the airplane but then he began to wonder where he was going to land and what it was going to be like on the ground. Spivey was hoping to land in a rural area with a lot of brush and cover. That was not to be the case. Spivey kept floating and moving along. He could still see the flak guns firing below him and the shells moving through the air. Spivey could hear his group flying away. Two Me109s came towards Spivey when he was parachuting and he thought that they might shoot him. Spivey had heard stories that they might be shot down. As the Me109s came closer they turned away and wiggled their wings at Spivey. Spivey could see the pilots’ faces when they passed. Spivey was quite relieved and saluted back at the Germans. Spivey floated probably 15 miles and ended up landing in a built up area. It was a town. As Spivey was coming down he could see lots of buildings and towers and power lines. Spivey tried to pull his risers to guide the chute. He missed the obstruction and landed near the train station. The town Spivey landed in is called Schiedam which is near Rotterdam. It was about 7:30 or 8:00 in the evening and the sun was still up. It was a pretty good summer day and a lot of people were looking up at Spivey. Spivey could hear voices too. Spivey landed in a grassy spot next to the railway station. By that time a lot of people were waiting for Spivey to land including German military. They came at Spivey immediately. The first German raised his potato masher grenade and yelled hands up. Spivey answered he had no pistol. Spivey’s parachute was picked up. Spivey was surrounded by several military and they were going to different places at the train station. Spivey was taken to the railway station and was marched down the street. Dutch people were lining the street. Some were waving and some men were giving Spivey a “V” sign for victory. They thought Spivey was British apparently. A very elderly lady came towards Spivey holding out her hands. She was knocked aside. She kept coming at Spivey and then was knocked to the ground. After that march for a couple of blocks Spivey was put into the sidecar of a Harley Davidson motorcycle. A corporate or private sat in the car with Spivey. As they rode along, this person bumped his rifle on Spivey’s head. Spivey was taken to a German flak station for the night and was treated very courteously. Spivey was given a blood sausage sandwich and he relished it with a bottle of Dutch beer. Later Spivey’s radioman was brought in. Spivey said nothing to him and he said nothing to Spivey. They asked Spivey if they knew each other and Spivey denied it. Spivey was not injured but he did have a sore neck from the parachute opening. The copilot broke his ankle when he landed. The gunners in the aft part of the airplane were killed. The tail gunner, ball turret gunner, and waist gunners were all killed. The plane broke in two and then an engine came off, so the plane fell in three pieces. For the last ten years Spivey has visited the American cemetery in the Netherlands and laid a wreath for the 381st Bombardment Group and recognized three of Spivey’s crewmembers that are buried there.

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Leonard Spivey was told that the war was over for him and that he would not be fighting again. Spivey gave them name, rank, and serial number. Spivey finally had to tell them that if they were in his shoes as an officer they would be giving the same cookie cutter responses. Spivey learned that the Germans would pull tricks during interrogation and try to convince the person they were interrogating that they knew all of this random information. It was not a surprise to run into a very knowledgeable German. A lot of times the Germans would say that the person they just interrogated gave no information even though they may have. The reasoning behind that was to trick the next guy they were talking to into collaborating the previous guy’s story. That did not happen to Spivey, but it happened to other guys. They did not torture United States prisoners of war. Spivey is sure that the Germans tortured the Soviets. Spivey has written up his memoirs about his prisoner of war experience. They were at Dulag Luft for about a week and then they were phased into something else. They were then taken into a big room with several prisoners and they brought in food that was not actually half bad. It made the prisoners feel good because they got a decent meal. There were air raids from the Allies that came close. Spivey heard a lot of flak guns going off and he could hear the fragments of the flak shells hitting the roof of their building. They did not have any bombs that fell among them. They were allowed to go outside and one time they even played touch football. Spivey was told that their final destination would be more like a country club instead of a prison camp. They got onto a train at Frankfurt. Spivey was walking down the street and some young girls were walking towards them. They had nylons on. One of them said in English, “I love you. I love you.” It was strange. They spent two overnights heading towards their next prison camp. They were in northeastern Germany. They ended up at Stalag Luft III, which was the air officers’ camp. From a scenery standpoint the movie, “The Great Escape” is very accurate. There were about 1,500 prisoners in the camp when Spivey got there. 17 months later, Spivey marched out of the camp in the winter there were maybe 10,000 prisoners.

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Leonard Spivey lived in a combine, which was a group of six prisoners in one living space. They were allowed to stay together. Spivey and Koenig stayed together in prison camp the entire time. The other four were two fighter pilots and two bomber crew members from another group. They had a cook house that boiled water and in the morning they would make tea. They were given a loaf of bread such as German rye. The bread was made of 30 percent sawdust. Spivey actually liked their bread. He got used to it. Each loaf of bread was portioned out. Each man got one-seventh of a loaf of bread. Sometimes they had jam. They did receive Red Cross parcels. They got other care packages from other countries all over the world. The American packages had a concentrated chocolate bar for energy. It also had Velveeta cheese and Spam. The British parcel would have things like jam and cheese in a can. The British parcel also had tea. They also got a ration of cigarettes. Cigarettes were a means of exchange in the camp. Cigarettes were as good as money. For lunch they were lucky to get a bowl of soup or porridge. Spivey ended up being the combine cook. The men apparently tolerated Spivey’s cooking. The combine was on their own in terms of feeding themselves. There was no mess hall. As time went on Spivey’s combine grew. By the time they marched out of Stalag Luft III, they had 12 guys in their combine. After about five or six months the RAF was moved to the north compound. They were then taken to another barracks area where there were separate rooms. Sometimes in the summer during the growing season they provided carrots and sometimes cabbage. The main staple was potatoes. They had to carefully ration the potatoes. They would be called out in the morning and counted. In the evening before sundown they were called out again and counted. A German Luftwaffe officer would be there overseeing the counting. The first barracks Spivey stayed in was right next to the wire fence. There were multiple tall barbed wire fences. In the first barracks there was a tunnel being dug. It was finished eventually. This was done by the British and the commonwealth airman. No Americans were involved in the Great Escape [Annotator’s Note: some Americans did contribute to the construction]. One night they scheduled the escape. Every night they had a lock up where before dark all of the doors were closed and locked. The Germans came in before lock up and discovered the tunnel.

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Leonard Spivey noted that there was a lot of commotion when they were burrowing through the tunnel. Some of the guys in different barracks were singing so nobody could hear. Most of the escapees were captured early the next morning. The Germans came in the next morning and started to flood the tunnels. Some of the Germans were laughing when they flooded the tunnel. None of this took place in Spivey’s compound. It all took place in the British compound. They heard about the escape plot later. They had secret communication available to communicate with the compounds. Spivey heard about the 50 soldiers who were executed and killed. The senior commanding officer in the camp was named Delmar Spivey. He is not related to Spivey. Delmar relayed the situation to the guys in the camp. Spivey could tell that the Germans were embarrassed about the escape attempt. One of the old German officers at the camp was very chivalrous and courteous. The officer was tried for supposedly allowing the escape to take place, but he avoided the death penalty. After the Great Escape attempt their times became tougher. The Germans were much more strict after that. Red Cross parcels were cut down. Sometimes the Germans would come in and search their barracks. All of the prisoners would be searched too. Colonel Delmar Spivey informed them that it was not their duty to try to escape. The likelihood of being shot was too great. It was not worth trying to escape. Getting out of Germany and getting back to England was almost impossible. They realized that escaping was not going to do anybody any good. After the Great Escape, their plans were pretty much shot. In January 1945, the Russians came within 15 or 20 miles of their camp. Spivey remembers thinking how they were going to be rescued by the Soviets. [Annotator’s Note: Spivey shakes his head as if to say, “The Soviets, you have to be kidding me.”]

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Leonard Spivey notes that the Germans managed to get all of the prisoners out before the Russians came. All of the prisoners were rounded up in the middle of the night. The Germans gave them a couple of hours to round up everything they had. It was sub-zero temperatures outside and one of the coldest winters on record in Europe in awhile. A lot is written about this incident. They carried blankets and whatever food they could carry. They were given one Red Cross parcel per man. They were on the road for three or four days. It was very cold. Spivey had never been so cold in his life. The first night they managed to sleep in a church. They marched from sun up to sun down. There was a sergeant in charge of their column and the guys called him “Popeye.” They were refused shelter in any public building. The sergeant managed to get the priest in the church to allow the prisoners to use the space. They were so crowded in the church that they could not lie down. They had to sit in the pews or sit on the floor. It was still very cold despite the fact that they were under shelter. The next morning they were ordered to march. They got to a large farm compound and Spivey was able to nestle himself in a stack of hay up to his neck to stay warm. There was a pottery factory they stayed in one night and that was advantageous because they had furnaces that kept everybody warm. They were eventually put onto boxcars and that was by far the worst part of Spivey’s prisoner experience. They kept warm by utilizing body heat. After two days without water it can get pretty bad. Almost everybody in the boxcar got sick. Spivey ended up being the German language interpreter for the box car. They stopped one time and Spivey was the guard for the door to allow guys out to use the rest room. This one time the guard did not allow anybody out of the boxcar. Spivey argued that the men were sick and needed to get out. The guard became distraught and he told Spivey he is also sick. Not sick in the sense of a cold, but sick in the sense that he was sick of the war and wanted to go home. The guard began to cry. It was strange. They eventually got to Moosburg which was a huge conglomeration of barbed wire enclosures holding many different types of nationalities. Spivey got sick at Moosburg. Everybody seemed sick. People were running over guys all night trying to get to the slit trench. The next day they got outside and it was refreshing. The weather began to get milder. Spivey remained in another barracks for the rest of the war. He was with the same guys from Stalag Luft III. On 29 April 1945, Patton and his armor penetrated the Moosburg area. There was a three hour battle around the camp and they were liberated. It was a wonderful and exhilarating feeling. Every kind of emotion was present. Once the tanks came in everybody crowded around and thanked the tankers. The guys ran the camp from that point on. They opened up a warehouse and they had all the food they needed. It was a few days before they were transferred to an airfield where DC-3s were awaiting to take literally thousands of people home.

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Leonard Spivey was at the airfield for a few days. They were at the airfield on V-E Day. All hell was breaking loose on the Eastern front. One time a Focke-Wulf fighter came over and it had its wheels down indicating surrender. It was a Luftwaffe pilot who was based in Czechoslovakia and he did not want to be captured by the Russians. He wanted to be captured by the Americans. It was a tri-motor Focke-Wulf. They even had a pig on board. The DC-3s came and flew them into Camp Lucky Strike on the channel coast of France near Rouen. They were there several days. They got to eat real good. They were also provided with clothing. Some people hitched rides and went into Paris. Spivey spent a day in Rouen and went to the Red Cross club there. They showered Spivey with attention which was nice. They asked if there was anything they could get him. Spivey asked for a fried egg because he had not had a fresh egg in two years. A French lady was there volunteering and she was the wife of a French official. She got a taxi to her house. They had wine and food which was good. From there they were eventually put in a group to go on a military transport. They were told not to tell anybody anything. They also had some paratroopers aboard. Their ship sailed all the way into South America. From South America they came in at New York City. They had all of the fireboats in the harbor with their hoses shooting off. It was a very emotional trip. They passed the Statue of Liberty. A lot of the guys kissed the ground when they got off of the gangplank. They were declassified at Camp Kilmer and granted a 60 day leave. Spivey believes it is essential for generations to learn about World War II. They were fighting for the liberty and freedom of many nations. Americans did not experience the war like so many other countries. Most of the other countries had some type of personal stake in it. Americans cannot imagine that kind of war happening in the United States. Spivey is sure that World War II changed him. Spivey does not know what he would be like if he had not had that experience. Spivey is still pretty optimistic about things. Nothing about the war makes him disappointed, other than the fact he was shot down too early. Spivey did not have the opportunity to contribute more towards the war effort. Spivey could have made captain, but he did not. Spivey was going to apply to stay in England even if he hit his 25 missions. He wanted to get to Wing Headquarters. Spivey would tell future generations that US soldiers helped in liberating an area that had gone mad. There were dictators that indiscriminately took the lives of millions of people. If it were not for the Commonwealth countries or Allied countries the world would be a very different place. We liberated millions of people from slavery. What happened in Europe should never ever happen again.

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Leonard Spivey notes that the Germans managed to get all of the prisoners out before the Russians came. All of the prisoners were rounded up in the middle of the night. The Germans gave them a couple of hours to round up everything they had. It was sub-zero temperatures outside and one of the coldest winters on record in Europe in awhile. A lot is written about this incident. They carried blankets and whatever food they could carry. They were given one Red Cross parcel per man. They were on the road for three or four days. It was very cold. Spivey had never been so cold in his life. The first night they managed to sleep in a church. They marched from sun up to sun down. There was a sergeant in charge of their column and the guys called him “Popeye.” They were refused shelter in any public building. The sergeant managed to get the priest in the church to allow the prisoners to use the space. They were so crowded in the church that they could not lie down. They had to sit in the pews or sit on the floor. It was still very cold despite the fact that they were under shelter. The next morning they were ordered to march. They got to a large farm compound and Spivey was able to nestle himself in a stack of hay up to his neck to stay warm. There was a pottery factory they stayed in one night and that was advantageous because they had furnaces that kept everybody warm. They were eventually put onto boxcars and that was by far the worst part of Spivey’s prisoner experience. They kept warm by utilizing body heat. After two days without water it can get pretty bad. Almost everybody in the boxcar got sick. Spivey ended up being the German language interpreter for the box car. They stopped one time and Spivey was the guard for the door to allow guys out to use the rest room. This one time the guard did not allow anybody out of the boxcar. Spivey argued that the men were sick and needed to get out. The guard became distraught and he told Spivey he is also sick. Not sick in the sense of a cold, but sick in the sense that he was sick of the war and wanted to go home. The guard began to cry. It was strange. They eventually got to Moosburg which was a huge conglomeration of barbed wire enclosures holding many different types of nationalities. Spivey got sick at Moosburg. Everybody seemed sick. People were running over guys all night trying to get to the slit trench. The next day they got outside and it was refreshing. The weather began to get milder. Spivey remained in another barracks for the rest of the war. He was with the same guys from Stalag Luft III. On 29 April 1945, Patton and his armor penetrated the Moosburg area. There was a three hour battle around the camp and they were liberated. It was a wonderful and exhilarating feeling. Every kind of emotion was present. Once the tanks came in everybody crowded around and thanked the tankers. The guys ran the camp from that point on. They opened up a warehouse and they had all the food they needed. It was a few days before they were transferred to an airfield where DC-3s were awaiting to take literally thousands of people home.

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Leonard Spivey was at the airfield for a few days. They were at the airfield on V-E Day. All hell was breaking loose on the Eastern front. One time a Focke-Wulf fighter came over and it had its wheels down indicating surrender. It was a Luftwaffe pilot who was based in Czechoslovakia and he did not want to be captured by the Russians. He wanted to be captured by the Americans. It was a tri-motor Focke-Wulf. They even had a pig on board. The DC-3s came and flew them into Camp Lucky Strike on the channel coast of France near Rouen. They were there several days. They got to eat real good. They were also provided with clothing. Some people hitched rides and went into Paris. Spivey spent a day in Rouen and went to the Red Cross club there. They showered Spivey with attention which was nice. They asked if there was anything they could get him. Spivey asked for a fried egg because he had not had a fresh egg in two years. A French lady was there volunteering and she was the wife of a French official. She got a taxi to her house. They had wine and food which was good. From there they were eventually put in a group to go on a military transport. They were told not to tell anybody anything. They also had some paratroopers aboard. Their ship sailed all the way into South America. From South America they came in at New York City. They had all of the fireboats in the harbor with their hoses shooting off. It was a very emotional trip. They passed the Statue of Liberty. A lot of the guys kissed the ground when they got off of the gangplank. They were declassified at Camp Kilmer and granted a 60 day leave. Spivey believes it is essential for generations to learn about World War II. They were fighting for the liberty and freedom of many nations. Americans did not experience the war like so many other countries. Most of the other countries had some type of personal stake in it. Americans cannot imagine that kind of war happening in the United States. Spivey is sure that World War II changed him. Spivey does not know what he would be like if he had not had that experience. Spivey is still pretty optimistic about things. Nothing about the war makes him disappointed, other than the fact he was shot down too early. Spivey did not have the opportunity to contribute more towards the war effort. Spivey could have made captain, but he did not. Spivey was going to apply to stay in England even if he hit his 25 missions. He wanted to get to Wing Headquarters. Spivey would tell future generations that US soldiers helped in liberating an area that had gone mad. There were dictators that indiscriminately took the lives of millions of people. If it were not for the Commonwealth countries or Allied countries the world would be a very different place. We liberated millions of people from slavery. What happened in Europe should never ever happen again.

Annotation

Leonard Spivey got back to the barracks after the Schweinfurt mission and there were many empty bunks. There were maybe a couple of crews left in each hut. There is a classic impression that one gets seeing the unoccupied bunks. Walking in after the Schweinfurt mission a lot of bunks were empty and it was a depressing feeling. Spivey was very fatigued after the mission. Flying at altitude in non pressurized cabins caused much fatigue. The stress of the mission really drains the energy. The pilots were extremely fatigued as well because of the lack of hydraulics in the instrumentation. Spivey thinks of the Schweinfurt mission and thinks of intense combat. One is constantly aware that at any moment they could be killed. Spivey distinctly remembers the Germans firing their weapons at them. They could see the flashes from the muzzles of their guns on their wings. They knew that when their wings were flashing they were being shot at. On the Schweinfurt mission in particular Spivey was aware that he could be killed at any moment. There were no foxholes. It was a common feeling that death was just around the corner. Despite that feeling you did not waver in your duty. Spivey thinks that is the way of combat. The condition at the base was of depression. There was a feeling of terrific loss. They had lost ten aircraft shot down and one that crash landed in the ocean. More than half of the people that went out that day did not come back. The guys who flew on the Schweinfurt mission were given a couple days of rest. The morale was low. Colonel Joseph Nazzaro took steps to relieve the situation somewhat by putting most of the flying crews on leave. They got to go into London and relax and let off steam a bit. Two days later orders came through for a mission into Holland. It was not going to be a long mission. An hour into the target and an hour back. It was considered to be a “milk run.” Going in that short distance they had fighter escort the entire way. Gilze Rijen was the target which was a Luftwaffe Fighter Airfield. The 381st and 1st Combat Wing were to go in on Gilze Rijen. They had a few planes. They did not have a full complement of flyable aircraft. They could only get seven of nine aircraft in the air. There was another group that could only put up a handful of airplanes so they combined and flew in a composite group.

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Leonard Spivey spent his first night at the flak station near Rotterdam. A German military police type stood guard over him all night. That morning a truck came and put Spivey on it. Spivey was taken to a Rotterdam jail on the second day. Here Spivey met some of his crew that had landed. His pilot had landed in a canal and had to swim out. He called Spivey “Spive” and he told Spivey that it was going to be a long cold winter. Spivey said, “This is war.” Spivey gave his boots to another American prisoner because he did not have any shoes. They spent another night in the Rotterdam jail. It was like a drunk holding tank. From there they were taken on a weapons’ carrier truck to Amsterdam. There Spivey was put into a regular prison that had been used by the Germans for political prisoners or recently captured enemy. Spivey was put into a small cell with a small door and small window. Spivey was maybe there for three or four days. Up to that point they had not been interrogated. A German officer did inform Spivey that four people had not lived from his plane. Spivey was in shock because they did not blow up immediately or anything like that. Spivey thought that they would have been able to get out. Spivey could hear the Germans asking his pilot if Spivey was a member of his crew. They all denied knowing each other. The German tried to tell them that they needed to know if they flew together so they could tell the families. Spivey was there for several days and then was taken to a train station that Spivey has since visited. They were taken to the main train station in Amsterdam. Spivey was put onto a train that was heading into Germany. The Germans had accumulated a decent amount of prisoners at this point. It was typical of what you see in the movies. They were transported in a regular passenger train. Spivey’s train went through Cologne and they saw the bomb damage there. Their destination was the Frankfurt rail station. From there Spivey was marched to Dulag Luft which was a German prison camp for newly captured airmen. They stayed there to get interrogated. That was the first time Spivey was under a real prisoner of war situation. They took off their shoes and kept the Americans barefooted. After a few days they had mint tea with a couple slices of bread and soup. This became their standard meal. It was a method they used to weaken them for interrogation. They were then called in one by one to the interrogator’s office. They were told they were going to be sent to a prisoner of war camp.
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