1st Lt. Wallace Spencer of Tangerine Woods in Englewood, Fla. was on his 28th and last combat mission on March 24, 1945 when the B-24 “Liberator” four-engine bomber he served as bombardier in was shot out of the sky at 20,000 feet by anti-aircraft flak while bombing a railroad marshaling yard in Münster, Germany.
“When I woke up on the ground a couple of German soldiers were pointing their Mauser rifles at me,” the 93-year-old local man recalled almost 70 years later. “Three of us out of a crew of 10 survived the explosion–the copilot, a gunner and myself.”
Until that moment Spencer had flown 23 combat missions over France and Germany with hundreds of other American bombers without incident. The young Air Corps bombardier joined the service in September 1942.
After basic training and bombardier school in Midland, Texas his crew was assembled in Colorado Springs, Colo. They flew to a base at Hardwick, England near Norwich. Spencer’s B-24 flew its first combat mission in France as part of the 330 Bomb Squadron, 93rd Bomb Group, 8th Air Force on Aug. 13, 1945.
It wasn’t until late March of ’45 when they bombed the railroad yard at Münster that all hell broke lose for his bomber crew.
“I was over my bomb sight when our bomber got hit by anti-aircraft flak. I hit my head on the Norden bomb sight and passed out. When I came to I got my bomb sight working again and dropped my bombs,” he said.
“When a bombardier is dropping his bombs he takes his chute off. I had mine off when we got hit a second time. Somehow I managed to get my chute back on and get one of the buckles bulked, but I don’t recall how I pulled the ripcord.
“All I know is they were shooting the hell out of us when the plane exploded. When I woke up on the ground a couple of German soldiers were pointed their rifles at me. The soldiers captured all three of us shortly after our bomber disintegrated,” Spencer said.
“I wasn’t in good shape. I couldn’t walk very well. A soldier had to drag me along. They took us to a barn and stood guard outside to keep the German civilians who surrounded the barn form killing us.
“The co-pilot and myself were taken to the Münster City Hall. We spent the next day being held by an agreeable 6-foot, 4-inch tall German lieutenant who realized the war for Germany was almost over.
“The next morning the sun was shining and the lieutenant allowed the two of us to step out on the sidewalk in front of city hall and enjoy the sunshine. While we were out on the sidewalk a tall woman walked by and dropped some cigarettes on the ground for us as she passed by. She walked back by where were were a few minutes later and dropped matches for us without saying a word.
“Then we were taken to a POW camp just outside of Münster, but I don’t remember its name. We were there a couple of weeks and then we were taken by train to a second POW camp. The reason we were moved was the American forces were advancing further into Germany from the west.
“Shortly after I arrived at the second camp I was placed in a German hospital and treated for my injuries. I was in the hospital two or three weeks. I improved enough I could walk again without any assistance,” Spencer recalled.
About this time British Gen. Bernard Montgomery’s troops made it to where they were and they were liberated by Allied forces.
“We were taken to Camp Lucky Strike at Le Havre, France by American soldiers,” he explained. “This was a debarkation camp for Americans headed back to the States.
He took a troop ship back home and sailed into New York Harbor in June or July 1945, just before the Japanese surrendered unconditionally on Sept. 2. After Spencer was discharged from the Air Force he took the G.I. Bill, attended UCLA, got a degree in finance and spent the next 30 years working for the IRS.
Shortly before Spencer retired he was the head of one the IRS’ seven district offices in San Francisco. He and his wife, Shelagh moved to this area in 1992. They have seven grown children: Gail, John, Karen, Lisa, , Russell, Suzanne, and Warren.
Name: Wallace Spencer
D.O.B: 19 March 1921
Hometown: Carson City, Mich.
Currently: Englewood, Fla.
Entered Service: September 1942
Discharged: September 1945
Rank: 1st Lieutenant
Unit: 330 Bomb Squadron, 93rd Bomb Group, 8th Air Force
Commendations: Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, POW Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Good Conduct MedalBattles/Campaigns: Twenty-eight combat missions in Europe:
1. Tact, Tag, France 13 Ayg. 44
2. Dijon/Longuic 14 Aug. 44
3. Colommiers 15 Aug. 44
4. Magdaburg 16 Aug. 44
5. Waggum 24 Aug.44
6. Heilbronn 10 Sept. 44
7. Magdeburg 11 Sept. 44
8. Coblenz 25 Sept. 44
9. Hamm 26 Sept. 44
10. Cgenaw 3 Oct. 44
11. Lippstandt 5 Oct. 44
12. Hamburg 6 Oct. 44
13. Coblenz 9 Oct. 44
14. Osnabruck 12 Oct. 44
15. Neumunster 25 Oct. 44
16. Hamburg 30 Oct. 44
17. Bielefeld 2 Nov. 44
18. Hamburg 21 Nov. 44
19. Bingerbruck 25 Nov. 44
20. Hanau 11 Dec. 44
21. Ahsweiler 24 Dec. 44
22. Magdeburg 6 Feb. 45
23. Osnabvruck 16 Feb. 45
24. Misburg 24 Feb. 45
25. Mechede 28 Feb. 45
26. Augsburg 1 March 45
27. Bielefeld 7 Narch 45
28. Munster 25 March 45
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, Nov. 17, 2014 and is republished with permission.
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