William W. Spruance, born 5 December 1916, Wilmington, Delaware, is world renowned as someone who demonstrates his dedication to the welfare of mankind and declares his patriotism to the United States of America.
Brigadier General William W. Spruance (Retired) was commissioned in 1939 as a Second Lieutenant (2d Lt.) from the Princeton University Reserve Officer Training Corp. Subsequently, 2d Lt. Spruance was assigned to the 2d Armored Division at Ft. Benning, GA, as a Field Artillery forward observer. During this assignment, he met General George S. Patton, the Division Commander, at the local airport where they were both learning to fly their own private airplanes. Realizing the potential of forward-air control by light aircraft, General Patton gave 2d Lt. Spruance the authority to directly contact any unit commander to develop strategy for observation, particularly artillery for control. To carry out this task, General Patton supplied 2d Lt. Spruance with an armored half-track vehicle full of radios, a jeep, four enlisted men, and all the gas he needed. To further the strategy development, 2d Lt. Spruance was directed to rent Piper Cubs or fly his own Culver Cadet and report his findings directly to General Patton. Communications from air to ground on maneuvers required commanders, including General Patton, to shout from open windows of slow flying planes at uncamouflaged troops below. The disorientation, the time-consuming surveys, and ground-observed fire control, were replaced by instant location on air photos, augmented by smoke flares and artillery bursts. Communication from airplanes to tanks and guns below was mostly by battery powered FM radios, with their antenna wire trailing out of the plane's window.
When delivery of the light aircraft promised to then 1st Lieutenant (1st Lt.) Spruance was delayed, General Patton suggested that Lieutenant Spruance transfer to the Army Air Corps. So, 1st Lt. Spruance flew his own plane to military flight training, taxied up and asked, "Where do I go to learn how to fly?" On his check ride the first day, he was told that he did not know it all; what he didn't know might kill him, so always go for 100%. Lieutenant Spruance graduated "top gun" from flight training class 43 A. However, due to the high demand of transport pilots, he was assigned to the Troop Carrier Command. Flying into Burma, he experimented with "all-weather" supply drops.
In an effort to improve the in-commission rate of the contrary C-46 Commando, he had the non-rated maintenance officer fly with him on test hops. Requiring the non-rated intelligence officer to ride in the jump seat with him in the lead airplane minimized exposure to enemy fire.
While flying the High Hump in the C-54 Skymaster, General Spruance completed 362 missions in the China-Burma-India Theater. Like many officers, including General William H. Tunner, he realized that leaving the job unfinished was a bad political decision and that eventually the United States Military would be back in the orient. General Tunner, Commander of the China Wing, India-China Division, Air Transport Command, was charged with ferrying troops and supplies within China and flying "the hump."
Returning home, General Spruance went into politics, becoming chief clerk of the Delaware Legislature, later, executive for the county, and chairman of the Aeronautics Commission. General Spruance was a founding member of the Delaware Air National Guard in 1946, flying the C-45 and the C-47 Skytrain, supporting a fighter squadron. He fought the ill-advised merger of the Air National Guard into the Reserves. Also, he volunteered to serve a tour at the Pentagon, working on the Guard and Reserve call up for Korea, advocating units should be assigned to gaining commands. He served on advisory boards of gaining commands, the Departments of the Air Force, and the Department of Defense. Brigadier General Spruance was promoted to his current rank in August of 1956.
For three decades, he has served the governing board of the Air Force Association. He was the Board Chairman for 17 years and now Chariman Emeritus at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and serves on the Advisory Council of their Center for Aerospace Safety Education (www.avsaf.org). He is on the Board of the Aerospace Education Foundation, and the National Guard Educational Foundation. He is a regular lecturer at the International Center for Safety Education and the Air National Guard Training and Education Center.
General Spruance was in a near-fatal crash as a passenger in a T-33 in 1961, resulting in extensive burns. Since then, he has given more than 1,500 presentations and recorded numerous videos on Flying Safety and Crash Survival. Many of the over 150,000 people who have attended his presentations, credit him with saving their lives. He was the first reserve officer awarded the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal for one of his three trips to Vietnam when he gave 100 presentations to over 10,000 people, at 58 bases, in 60 days. Brig. Gen. Spruance (retired) attends all conventions and board meetings of the previously mentioned associations and continues to give his presentations.
General Spruance was best man in the wedding of Col. Warren A. Bennett, a flight training classmate, and his bride Eunice in 1942. After the demise of General Spruance's wife, Jane, he married Col. Bennett's widow in 1989. Their six sons have produced a birthday card list of 40 and climbing.
General Spruance dedicates himself to the continuing promotion of the Air Guard. His objectives are to preserve in the total aerospace military power structure the historical militia concept. Through scholarships, stipends, exposure to the power centers, etc., he encourages young highly motivated individuals to become future leaders in the Total Air Force.