MajGen (R) John Robert "Bert" Spalding, Jr. USAF (Ret.) passed away on October 20, 2013 at his home in Monument, Colorado. He was a retired two star general officer in the United States Air Force, a loving husband, father, grandfather and trusted friend. |
John Robert Spalding, Jr. was born August 28, 1925 in Oak Park, Illinois; the son of John R. and Mae (Hanrahan) Spalding. He grew up in Downers Grove, Illinois and during his senior year in High School (1942-43), he was football co-captain and in the National Honor Society. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps, and graduated from Navigation School in 1944 as a Second Lieutenant with an assignment to B-24 bombers. After WWII ended, he flew on transport missions in the Aleutians and Eastern Pacific until 1949, when he entered pilot training.
He received his wings as a single engine jet fighter pilot from the fighter school at Williams AFB, Arizona in 1949. In the Korean War in 1951, he flew 100 F-86 combat missions with 51st Fighter Wing. It was classic air to air combat against Soviet and Chinese pilots, and in it, he shot down a Mig 15. After completing his Combat Tour, Spalding was a Fighter Gunnery Instructor in 1952 at Luke AFB, Arizona imparting into new young fighter pilots, the combat lessons learned in Korea.
In 1954, he was selected as a wingman on the Air Force Demonstration Team, "The Thunderbirds." In 1956, after leaving the Air Show Business, he commanded an F-84F fighter squadron. A year later, he entered the University of Chicago, School of Business and graduated with an MBA in 1958. Following graduation, Bert commanded a 6 Engine Nuclear Attack Bomber, the B-47, and a Select Strategic Air Command Aircrew, S-29 of the 96th Bomb Wing at Dyess AFB, Texas. In 1962, during the Cuban Crisis, he commanded 6 nuclear loaded B-47s deployed to Tulsa Municipal Airport. He continued his Cold War service in SAC as commander of a B-52 Squadron, the 337th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) until 1966.
His professional military education then followed with a year's assignment to the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Upon graduation, he returned to Fighter Operations, his first love. He checked out in the F4 Phantom and F-102 Delta Dart in 1968 as the 405th Fighter Wing DO.
He then entered the Vietnam War and took command of the F-4 Phantom equipped 366th Tactical Fighter Wing "The Gunfighters" at Danang, RVN, aka "Rocket City" in 1971. When he assumed command, and became "Gunfighter One," he achieved his Air Force ambition formed 1951: to be a Fighter Wing commander in combat. In this his second war as a fighter pilot, he flew 163 combat missions in North and South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The 366th TFW was selected as the Best Air Force Fighter Wing in that war in 1971.
The next assignment was Air Force Headquarters at the Pentagon. His first job there, as a Colonel, was Chief of Fighter Programs and Tactical Airlift. Upon promotion to Brigadier General, he assumed the assignment of Director of Air Force Logistics Plans and Programs. He was promoted to Brigadier General in the job as Director of Logistics Plans and Programs on the Air Staff. Two stars then followed in that assignment prior to his departure for the Air Defense Command and NORAD. General Spalding was the Deputy Commander for Logistics and J-4 of NORAD. His ultimate assignment in the Air Force was as Vice Commander of ADC/NORAD. General Spalding then commanded and retired from Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, Georgia from 1978-80. He flew his last Air Force flight there in an F-15 followed by the traditional Vietnam "Fini" Flight hose down and Sawadee Party.
His military decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal (with one Oak Leaf Cluster), the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross (with one Oak Leaf Cluster), the Bronze Star, the Air Medal (with 12 Oak Leaf Clusters), the Air Force Commendation medal and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He is a Command Pilot and Navigator with 6,000 flying hours. He has been certified combat ready in the F-80, F-84, F-86, F-102, F-4, B-47 and B-52. He has flown both oceans in a fighter; and F-84 the Atlantic and F-4 the Pacific.
In 1952, he married Bille Campbell of Albuquerque, New Mexico, when he returned from the Korean War. They had three children: Larry, Trena and Robert. Bille died unexpectedly while the family was in Washington, DC and their son, Robert Roy Spalding, died in 1973. He later married Elizabeth Light of Charlotte, North Carolina. She has one son: Bruce. After retirement from the Air Force, General Spalding served as an elected Director of the Tri Lakes Fire Protection District and did volunteer work for Silver Key, Sertoma, the Woodmoor Improvement Association and the USAFA Game and Fish Department. Since his navigator days, he has maintained a burning interest in Astronomy and enjoyed immensely fishing and hiking in beautiful Colorado.
Bert is survived by his loving wife: Elizabeth "Liz" of Monument, Colorado; his son: Larry Elton (wife Linda) Spalding; and his daughter: Trena Lee (husband Jeff) Stewart. He has four wonderful grandchildren: John Elton Spalding of Mississippi, Rebecca Bryson (husband Jacob) of Virginia, Christopher Spalding of Indiana, Patrick Spalding of Virginia, and Samantha Timms (husband Kerry) of North Carolina. General Spalding has one great-granddaughter: Katherine Bryson.
A Memorial Mass will be celebrated at 1:00 pm on Friday, December 6, 2013 at the Air Force Academy Community Center Chapel, 5134 Cathedral Drive, USAFA, Colorado 80840. Please use the North Gate entrance to the Academy.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Air Force Enlisted Village, 92 Sunset Lane, Shalimar, Florida 32579 firstname.lastname@example.org
Online Condolences: ShrineOfRemembrance.com
Published in The Gazette on Dec. 1, 2013