Lt. William H. Spencer, Bombardier
Survived by his son-in-law Phil and three grandchildren
TIMELINE OF LIFE EVENTS:
- William (Bill) Spencer was born in Marion, Indiana, on May 10, 1917. His family lived in the small rural town of Sheridan, Indiana, an hour away from Marion.
- His father, Avery, was a farmer, and his mother, Floy, was a housewife. They were 35 and 33 years old respectively when he was born. Bill was an only child.
- When Bill was only 17 years old, his father died at the age of 54.
- Bill graduated from Sheridan High School in 1935.
- Bill enlisted as an aviation cadet in the Air Corps on January 21, 1942, at Lockbourne Army Air Base in Columbus, Ohio, eventually becoming the Bombardier on the Rum Boogie crew. His enlistment record indicates he was single at that time.
- I don't have a date for when Bill married Helen Malley, but my guess would be sometime between his enlistment date of January 21, 1942 and the birth of their daughter, Lucinda, on May 22, 1943.
- During WW2, Lt. Spencer was decorated with a purple heart, an air medal (given after completing five missions), and an oak leaf cluster, possibly for shooting down a German fighter. I'm not sure which mission or missions these decorations were for, but Rum Boogie's eighth mission to Kiel on June 13, 1943, was an especially difficult one and is probably where the injuries happened and the awards were earned. The Navigator, Harry J. Miller, who Bill was good friends with, describes the fight, "we fought for more than two hours, with 200 enemy fighters milling around in the sky, and before the fight was over we had used up all but 25 rounds of ammunition." In the end, three B17 bombers and the 30 men who made up their crews were lost.
- On his last officer's pay allowance form, dated November 24, 1945, Mrs. Helen Spencer is still listed as Bill's wife. After returning to civilian life, he took up his career in broadcast radio management and was a troubleshooter for a chain of radio stations, moving his family to new locations while he took over station management to get it back on its financial feet, then moving on to his next assignment somewhere in the Midwest. At some point between the end of Bill's war service and 1963, Bill and Helen divorced.
- In 1965, Bill's daughter Lucinda married Philip. They had three children.
- Many returning veterans carried their own demons with them after the war, and Bill was no exception. He was a heavy drinker which contributed greatly to his downward spiral, loss of job opportunities, and divorce. In 1967, he was admitted for alcohol addiction and recovery to Eastern State Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. At that time, he had one grandchild who he saw briefly. Eventually, two more grandchildren were born who he never met.
- His mother, Floy, died in August of 1972 at the age of 89 at the Turtle Creek Convalescent Center in Sheridan.
- In December of 1972, three days before Christmas, Bill died in San Francisco at the age of 55. One of his friends called the family to inform them what had happened. His daughter, Lucinda, went to bring his body back to Indiana, where he is buried in the Spencer Cemetary in Sheridan.
- Lucinda and Phil divorced after 11 years of marriage in 1976.
- On March 28, 1988, Bill's ex-wife Helen died In Springfield, Ohio, at the age of 76. It appears that she never remarried.
- On October 26, 1992, Bill's daughter Lucinda died at the age of 49 in Los Angeles.
- On a snowy weekend in February, I was researching Bill for this website. A visit to Ancestry.Com turned up a lot of information regarding his death that I didn't expect to
The Indianapolis Star, 7/2/43
The only picture I have of William Spencer - he was the photographer for the crew picture.
On Memorial Day, 2017, I commemorated Bill
with a red rose in San Francisco Bay. I hope at
last he is in a peaceful place.
What happened to Bill is not that unusual for
men who have defended our country in war. They
have seen and been a part of horrific things. I grew up during Viet Nam. My brother joined the Marines right after high school and was part of the ground war there. I thank God every day that my brother is all right and still on the planet, because I see Viet Nam vets who aren't - who have been ravaged by drugs and alcohol and homelessness and a country who didn't welcome them home. If you would like to make a charitable donation to any service related charity, please consider doing so today. Here is a possible link:
Air Force Aid Society
Official Charity of the U.S. Air Force and Supporting Airmen Since 1942
Four Star Charity on Charity Navigator