Salute to the service of the late Brigadier General William W. Spruance, renowned military aviator and a Delaware Air National Guard founding father

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A salute to the service of the late Brigadier General William W. Spruance, a highly decorated military aviator and a founding father of the Delaware Air National Guard, will occur March 25 at 1:30 p.m. at the headquarters of the Delaware Air National Guard in New Castle, Delaware. The event will last 90 minutes.

General Spruance passed away at age 94 on January 15 in Las Vegas, Nev., where he lived.

Uniformed senior military leadership of the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va., elected civilian leaders and military guests from Delaware and throughout the nation have been invited to attend the invitation-only event.

Delaware National Guard senior leadership will also attend, including Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Francis D. Vavala, Maj. Gen. Hugh T. Broomall, special assistant to the director, Air National Guard, and the previous assistant adjutant general for air, Delaware National Guard, and Brig. Gen. J. Wayne Merritt, the current assistant adjutant general for air, Delaware National Guard.

News media must RSVP no later than 10:00 a.m. on March 24. News media representative credentials will be checked at the main gate, 2600 Spruance Drive, New Castle, DE 19720. The entrance is off Commons Boulevard. Parking instructions will then be provided.

A native of Wilmington, Del., Gen. Spruance graduated from Princeton University, flew in combat in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II, and became an original member of the Delaware Air National Guard in 1946 and is recognized as one of the founding fathers of the unit.

He was appointed as the first assistant adjutant general for air, Delaware National Guard, serving from 1956 to 1975, the longest tenure anyone has held this position.

"General Spruance was instrumental in helping to found the Delaware Air National Guard in 1946, in improving the training of the people he served with and the quality of their aircraft, in rebuilding the unit almost from scratch after the Korean War, and in orchestrating the unit's transition from fighter aircraft to transport aircraft," said Maj. Gen. Hugh T. Broomall, special assistant to the director of the Air National Guard in Arlington, Va., and a resident of Newark, Del. "Gen. Spruance came from a well-to-do background, but led a life devoted to public service. He volunteered for military service and flew several hundred combat missions during World War II in the China-India-Burma Theater. He was practically born to fly, to lead military aviators and to successfully manage flying organizations. Before his near-fatal aircraft crash in 1961, and through the end of his life, he was a fierce advocate for aviation safety, and remained steadfast in his support for aviation and the mission, men and women of the Air National Guard."

Born December 5, 1916, in Wilmington, Del., Gen. Spruance was commissioned in 1939 as a second lieutenant in U.S. Army Field Artillery upon his graduation from the Princeton University Reserve Officer Training Corp., and learned to fly as a civilian pilot.

He entered active duty a year later, assigned to the 2d Armored Division at Ft. Benning, Ga., as a field artillery forward observer. First Lt. Spruance completed military flight training in 1943, transferred to the Army Air Corps and graduated "top gun" from flight training class 43A. He qualified as a fighter pilot, but was assigned to fill a need as a transport pilot in the Troop Carrier Command to fly the Hump over the Himalayas in Northern India to resupply Chinese forces fighting on the side of the Allies against the Imperial Japanese Army. Flying into Burma, he experimented with all-weather supply drops flying the Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando, and also flew the Douglas C-54 Skymaster. He completed 362 missions in the China-Burma-India Theater ferrying troops and supplies. He was released from active duty in 1946.

He then served for 29 more years in various positions in the Delaware Air National Guard flying the Beechcraft C-45 Expeditor and the Douglas "Gooney Bird" C-47 Skytrain, supporting a fighter squadron and then a transport unit.

After surviving a near-fatal crash as a passenger in a T-33 aircraft in 1961, resulting in extensive burns, Gen. Spruance embarked on an unparalleled crusade for safety that took him to hundreds of bases in the U.S. and around the world, making more than 2,000 presentations on flying safety and crash survival. He was the first reserve officer awarded the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal for one of his three trips to Vietnam when he gave at least 100 presentations to over 10,000 people, at 58 bases, in 60 days. In recognition of his outstanding contributions in the cause for safety, in 1976 the National Guard Association of the United States established the William W. Spruance Safety Award.

For three decades he served on the governing board of the Air Force Association and was the Board Chairman for 17 years. He was Chairman Emeritus at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and served on the Advisory Council of their Center for Aerospace Safety Education. He also served on the Board of the Aerospace Education Foundation, and the National Guard Educational Foundation. He was a regular lecturer at the International Center for Safety Education and the Air National Guard Training and Education Center. He served the National Guard Association of the United States for over half a century, including its board of directors and the NGAUS Insurance Trust.

Link to high-res photo of Gen. Spruance:

Links to several aircraft flown by Brig. Gen. Spruance:

Beechcraft C-45 Expeditor:

Downloadable high-res:

AMC Museum at Dover AFB:

Douglas C-54 Skymaster:

Downloadable high-res:

AMC Museum at Dover AFB:

Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando:

Downloadable high-res:

Douglas C-47 "Gooney Bird" Skytrain:

Downloadable high-res:

AMC Museum at Dover AFB:


AMC Museum at Dover AFB:

The Delaware ANG has 1,100 members, and continually deploys personnel and subordinate units around the globe. This release is in the public domain, and any part may be used as written.

Delaware Air National Guard: Celebrating 65 years of Citizen-Airman service to our state and nation, 1946-2011.

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