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Harold Spire

Military

Note : In both the 1930 and 1940 Censuses, Harold and his parents are listed as Spires. All later documents, including his Enlistment records, his Escape & Evasion Report have him as Harold Spire...
Shot down 21 October 1942 in B-17 41-24443 while serving as Navigator. Taken prisoner but escaped (twice) and finally made it to safety in Switzerland on 7 May 1945. Painter Peter HURD had made a portrait of him, which appeared in the February 15, 1943 issue of LIFE Magazine.
(See http://ramosmiller.blogspot.com/2007_01_21_archive.html under "Hurd's Navigator"). The LIFE text errs in saying that “Spire and the engineer took over the controls” and that “the seriously wounded pilot gave them directions in operating the plane back to safety in England". It was in fact the Bombardier, Lt Ewart T. Sconiers, who took over the controls after helping the dead co-pilot out of his seat on board “Johnny Reb” Serial 41-9089 on that 21 August 1942 mission to Rotterdam...

Service

People

  • William Adams

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Radio Operator | 97th Bomb Group
    Shot down 21 October 1942 in B-17 41-24443 while serving as Radio Operator. Prisoner of War (POW).

  • Thomas Calhoun

    Military | Sergeant | Left Waist Gunner | 97th Bomb Group
    Shot down 21 October 1942 in B-17 41-24443 while serving as Left Waist Gunner. Prisoner of War (POW).

  • Robert Carlberg

    Military | First Lieutenant | Co-Pilot | 97th Bomb Group
    Robert Carlberg was assigned to the 97th Bomb Group/414th Bomb Squadron, and was sent to England. Shot down on 21 October 1942 in B-17 41-24443 while serving as Co-Pilot on a mission to bomb U-Boat pens at Lorient/Keroman, France. The Fortress was hit...

  • John Hughes

    Military | Sergeant | Right Waist Gunner | 97th Bomb Group
    Shot down 21 October 1942 in B-17 41-24443 while serving as Right Waist Gunner. Prisoner of War (POW).

  • Roy Nalley

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Top Turret Gunner | 97th Bomb Group
    Note : the 1930 US Census has his family's name wrongly spelled as Nally... This was corrected in the 1940 one > Nalley... A Top Turret Gunner, Roy Nalley was shot down on 21 October 1942 in B-17 41-24443. Prisoner of War (POW).

  • William Schimke

    Military | Sergeant | Ball Turret Gunner | 97th Bomb Group
    Shot down 21 October 1942 in B-17 41-24443 while serving as Ball Turret Gunner. Prisoner of War (POW).

  • Ewart Sconiers

    Military | First Lieutenant | Bombardier | 97th Bomb Group
    Lt Ewart Sconiers was Bombardier on B-17 41-9089 'Johnny Reb', one of the 12 B-17s participating in the first heavy bomber raid of the 8th Air Force on 17 August 1942. The target were the shipyards of Rouen/Sotteville, France. ...

  • James Simmons

    Military | Sergeant | Tail Gunner | 97th Bomb Group
    Shot down 21 October 1942 in B-17 41-24443 while serving as Tail Gunner. Prisoner of War (POW). After being held at Stalag Luft 1 (Barth, Germany), he was transferred to Stalag XIII (Hammelburg, Germany), where he was head of the escape committee.

  • Richard Starks

    Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 97th Bomb Group
    Richard Starks grew up in Woodford County, Kentucky. He attended the Midway High School and the University of Kentucky before enlisting in April 1941. After his enlistment, he was sent to Tulsa, Oklahoma for primary training, starting to fly the...

  • Milton Stenstrom

    Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 97th Bomb Group
    Milton Stenstrom enlisted in April 1941 and followed pilot training. Assigned to the 97th Bomb Group/414th Bomb Squadron, he was sent to England. ...

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Units served with

  • 97th Bomb Group

    97th Bomb Group

    Group
    The 97th Bomb Group flew the Eighth Air Force's first heavy bomber mission from the UK when they bombed a marshalling yard at Rouen on 17 August 1942. Just a month later though the Group were reassigned to the Twelfth Air Force and left England for the...

  • 414th Bomb Squadron

Aircraft

  • 41-24443 Johnny Reb II, Johnny Reb Jr

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Assigned 326BS/92BG Bangor 1-August-1942; transferred to 414BS/97BG Polebrook 24-August-1942; Missing in Action 21-October-1942 on mission to bomb the U-Boat pens at Lorient/Keroman, France. The Navigator, 1Lt Harold Spire provided the following...

  • 41-9089 Johnny Reb

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Sarasota 15/4/42. Assigned 414BS/97BG Polebrook 4/42. Flew on first 8th Air Force heavy bomber mission 17 August 1942 with Pilot Lt. Richard S. Starks (WIA 21/8/42); Co-pilot: Donald A. Walter (KIA 21/8/42); Navigator: Harold Spire;...

Missions

  • VIII Bomber Command 1

    17 August 1942
    The US 8AF launches its first strategic bombing raid of the war, sending 12 Boeing B-17Es of the 97BG on a strike against the railyards of Sotteville-lès-Rouen, France, while another six fly a diversionary route. The attacking force is split into two...

  • VIII Bomber Command 4

    21 August 1942
    97BG despatches 12 B-17s on a mission to bomb the shipyards and harbour facilities at Rotterdam, Holland. The mission is aborted when attacked by approximately 25 Bf-109 and Fw-190 fighter aircraft. Spitfire aircraft were despatched by 31FG as escorts...

  • VIII Bomber Command 15

    21 October 1942
    German U-Boat pens are Lorient, France are the Primary (P) targets for this mission along with the German airfield at Cherbourg, France. 93BG despatches 24-B-24s to Lorient, but cloud cover prevents them from bombing. The main attack force to Lorient...

Associated Place

  • Polebrook

    Military site : airfield
    Polebrook was laid down for RAF Bomber Command use in 1940-1941. Built by George Wimpey and Co. Ltd, it had short runways which were lengthened for USAAF heavy bomber use. The RAF used the base for operational trials - including of B-17 Flying...

Events

Event Location Date
Born New York State, United States 30 August 1916

the son of Harmon Richard Spires and Nellie Spires

Lived in Dannemora, Clinton County, New York 1940

Had lived (in 1930) with his parents and brothers Kenneth, Wallington and Edward, and sisters Bernice, Marion and Ivanell in Wilton, Saratoga County, NY

Enlisted March Field, Riverside, California, United States 9 October 1941
Captured Quimper, France 21 October 1942

after the ditching of B-17F 41-24443 off the coast of Brittany, France and being rescued by a French fishing boat which brought him and 8 other crew members to shore

Prisoner of War (POW) and Evaded (EVD) Sagan, Poland 21 October 1942 – 7 May 1945

held at Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia (now Poland) and managed to escape. Was recaptured and sent to Stalag 17A Kaisersteinbruch. Escaped again and made it to the American Legation in Berne, Switzerland on 7 May 1945. The record of his escape is recorded on Escape & Evasion Report #2846 and may be viewed at:http://media.nara.gov/nw/305270/EE-2846.pdf

Died Encino, Los Angeles County, California, United States 27 March 1978

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
26 November 2017 11:31:39 ED-BB Changes to nickname, service number, biography, events and person associations
Sources

NARA WWII Enlistment Records
NARA WWII POW Records
US Censuses for 1930 and 1940

Date Contributor Update
22 November 2014 19:25:38 Lee8thbuff Changes to awards
Sources

Lee Cunningham 22-Nov-2014. Added POW decoration.

Date Contributor Update
12 November 2014 23:54:36 Lee8thbuff Changes to biography and events
Sources

Lee Cunningham 12-Nov-2014. POW information: National Archives Records Administration (NARA) Escape & Evasion Report #2846 http://media.nara.gov/nw/305270/EE-2846.pdf

Date Contributor Update
12 November 2014 23:34:36 Lee8thbuff Changes to aircraft associations and mission associations
Sources

Lee Cunningham 12-Nov-2014. Added mission connections.

Date Contributor Update
28 October 2014 20:46:35 Lee8thbuff Changes to service number, biography, events, place associations, aircraft associations and mission associations
Sources

Lee Cunningham 28-Oct-2014. "losses of the 8th & 9th Air Forces" Stan Bishop & John A. Hey MBE; National Archives Records Administration (NARA) Escape & Evasion record. http://media.nara.gov/nw/305270/EE-2846.pdf.

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:11:56 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / Roll of Honor, Losses of the 8th & 9th AFs Vol 1, pp 38-39 by Bishop and Hey

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