Thanks to Guest Editor Bob Woodling for help researching this page.


the register


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Henry Russell Spicer was born February 16, 1909 at Colorado Springs, CO. He is signed in the Grand Central Air Terminal (GCAT) Register twice. His first visit was on Sunday, December 14, 1930 at 10:20AM. He remained on the ground 40 minutes before departing to an unidentified destination. He carried an unidentified passenger.

H.H. Spicer, Ca. 1943 (Source: findagrave)

His second visit at Glendale was again on a Sunday, January 11, 1931 at 11:43AM. He remained on the ground over an hour before departing to, again, an unidentified destination. Both times he flew the Fleet 2 NC721V, S/N 320. The owners of the airplane were identified as "Spicer & Santry." If you have any information about "Santry" you can share, please let me KNOW.

In the 1920 U.S. Census, Spicer, age 13 months, lives in Greeley, CO in a rooming house with his parents, Carl A. (28), mother Bertha,26, and older brother. His father's occupation is listed as

The 1930 Census places Spicer, age 21, living with his parents and two brothers at 123 North Kingsley Street in Los Angeles, CA. His father was a building contractor, and the family lived in their own home valued at $25,000.

Notably, the occupation of his older brother, Richard, age 23, was "Salesman" in the "Aeroplane" industry. It is possible that his exposure to airplanes through his brother's job is what stimulated him to learn to fly, to own an airplane with partner Santry, and to show up at GCAT flying it within a year of the Census.

Also, the juxtaposition of his civil landings at GCAT in 1930-31, with his graduation from the University of Arizona a year later (see the Air Force Register, below), and with his enlistment in the reserves in 1931 makes one envision a disciplined plan to get into aviation as both a vocation in the military and an avocation in civil life.

The portrait, right, ca. 1943, is from his FindaGrave profile. Other biographical information and a photograph are found on Spicer's Air Force biography page at the link. Please direct your browser to that page to view the information there, which I won't repeat on this page.

Spicer had what is described there as a, "colorful Air Force career" that spanned 33 years. The Air Force Register for 1948 summarized his career to-date as follows.

H.R. Spicer in the Air Force Register, 1948 (Source: Woodling)




The 1940 Census (dated April 27) records him at Randolph FIeld, Bexar, TX living in government housing with his wife, Louise F. (age 21) and their three-month old son Henry A. They also had a live-in servant, Hattie McIntyre (26). According to the Air Force Register, left, Spicer would be a lieutenant then, on his way to captain in September.


During WWII, Spicer rose to the rank of colonel. He probably held that rank at the time of this anecdote, below, from his Air Force biography (linked above).

During a mission to Germany in [March] 1944 his P-51 Mustang was damaged by ground fire and he was forced to ditch in the English Channel. After two days' floating in a rubber dinghy, during which time his feet froze, he drifted ashore on the French coast. Spicer was taken captive by Germans and at Barth, Germany, prisoner of war camp he survived a sentence of death. His spirit had antagonized his Nazi captors and when a pep talk he made to fellow prisoners caused a near riot, he was sentenced to a six-month solitary confinement and was to be executed upon his release. But on the day scheduled for his execution the camp was liberated by Allied forces.

Another version of the termination of his death sentence appeared in the Lubbock Avalanche Journal of January 23, 1961 as told by one of Spicer's subordinates during the war. It seems that boxer Max Schmeling was an officer in the German Army at the time of Spicer's incarceration. Schmeling was personally against the Hitler regime and tried to help the Allies whenever he could. His help was called upon to stay Spicer's execution. Schmeling talked to some people in the German military and foreigh office who also didn't like Hitler. As Schmeling told it after a meeting with Spicer, "I told him he would not be under sentence of death the next day. The sentence was lifted, just as my friends said it would be." The article goes on the say, "Did this happen as Schmeling told it or did Gen. Patton's boys break through and liberate the POW camp before Spicer could be executed? Who knows?"

Further, his FindaGrave profile sources the following photograph of him when he was in captivity. But for the uniforms, this image could be of any number of men who formed friendships in the military.

H.R. Spicer (C), Germany, 1944 (Source: findagrave)

Regardless, Spicer was welcomed back to England by his men after the war in Europe was over. Spicer remained in the Air Force through the 1950s and into the 1960s. He retired in 1964 as a major general. The portrait, right, is from Spicer's Air Force biography page.

H.H. Spicer, Ca. 1950s (?) (Source: USAF)


Of further interest, Spicer is signed three times in the Oxnard Field Register, Albuquerque, NM. I have not published this Register as a Web site yet, but will over the next year or so. Regardless, Spicer landed there three times in the last half of 1937. He flew two Northrop A-17A aircraft, 36-172 and 36-175, and one North American BT-9B he identified as 37-119.

The New York TImes, December 5,1968 (Source: NYT)
The New York TImes, December 5,1968 (Source: NYT)










And one reference states, "H.R. Spicer is an actor, known forĀ Air CadetĀ (1951). Indeed, Spicer appeared in the film as an uncredited actor, probably an extra in military uniform for authenticity. Another uncredited "actor" in the same film was Gus Grissom, killed 16 years later during pre-launch testing of Apollo I.

Spicer died December 4, 1968 at Lackland City, TX at age 59. The obituary, left, from The New York Times, December 5,1968 tells of his commands. I do not know the cause of his death. Another obituary appeared in the San Antonio LIght, December 5,1968.

He is buried at the Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, TX. Because he passed away so young, he predeceased most of his immediate family. Survivors included his widow, Louise Lenard Spicer, a daughter, Susan, three sons, Henry A., Leonard R. and James R.; his mother, Mrs. Bertha A. Spicer, and two brothers, Randall O. and Richard W.