WSpencer-Long Winding Road 1
Updated: Feb 19
Explore the rest of this website about my dad's B-17 crew: www.rumboogiecrew.com
Click below to listen to the audio blog.
Growing up during the 1960's, I was crazy about all the great music produced during
that decade. My sister Ann was an expert at playing the piano, and she also knew Shorthand, a method of rapid writing by means of abbreviations and symbols, which she learned in high school. Ann would listen to the songs on the radio, quickly take down the lyrics in shorthand, and then figure out how to play them on the piano. She was amazing. We would sit at the piano for hours as she played and we sang songs by Jan and Dean, The Beach Boys, and of course, the Beatles. We sang "Eight Days a Week" among others, and I bought every Beatles album I could get my hands on. But the song I really loved was "The Long and Winding Road," written by Paul McCartney. The actual story behind the song, in McCartney’s own words is: “I was a bit flipped out and tripped out at that time. It's a sad song because it’s all about the unattainable; the door you never quite reach. This is the road that you never get to the end of.” For the past seven years, McCartney's story about writing that song has mirrored my own flipped out search for a living relative for Rum Boogie Crew Bombardier William H. Spencer: sad, unattainable, and a door I didn't want to open when I finally reached it.
Before I could find a living relative for William Spencer, I had to find him. From the crew birthplace list I had, it appeared he was from "Polis, Indiana," and, of course, his middle initial was unreadable. I looked for him on Find a Grave many times. But William Spencer is a very common name, and some of the cemeteries were even named Spencer. There were literally thousands of William Spencer's on Find a Grave.
I wrote to Geoff Ward, the 96th Bomb Group Historian, to see if he could help. He gave me the name of Wilda Spencer as a possible wife for William Spencer.
Amazingly, I found Wilda Spencer on Find a Grave right away, and on the headstone with her was listed her husband, 1st Lt. William "L." Spencer. I had some Rum Boogie loading lists which showed the Bombardier as William "H." Spencer, but I wrote that off to the usual typing problems on WWII military forms. According to the headstone, it appeared that Wilda might still be alive, but then I found an obituary for her. She and William L. had lived in Ashtabula, Ohio all their lives and been married for decades. They had two children, a son, Douglas and a daughter. I sent Douglas one of my usual form letters, which did not get returned to sender this time, and a couple of weeks later, he emailed me.
We emailed back and forth several times as he agreed to send me some memorabilia and pictures. I proceeded to ignore the following facts about his father William L. Spencer: William L. was in England flying missions in 1944 instead of 1943 when the Rum Boogie Crew was there; William L. lived in Ohio not Indiana; and, most importantly, I didn't cry when I found William L.'s children, the living relatives I had been looking for all these years. I had cried without fail every time I found a new living relative up to this point, no matter where I was, even when Dan Gant texted me in the middle of a school in-service. But seven years had been a long time to look, and I wanted to believe I had found my man.
EXCEPT THAT #1: In follow-up emails from Geoff Ward, he told me that the 96th Bomb Group, 337th Squadron included two 1st Lieutenants, both Bombardiers, and both named William Spencer: William H. and William L.
AND EXCEPT THAT #2: I had chosen to ignore something else I'd come across a few months earlier.