Spivey, Delmar “Del” Taft.

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Spivey, Delmar Taft.
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Spivey, Delmar “Del” Taft, born 09-08-1905 in Gatesville, North Caroline .  After graduating from high school at Whaleyville, Virginia., in 1922,Delmar attended William and Mary College, Williamsburg, Graduating from the U.S. Military Academy

on 09-06-1928, the General was appointed a second lieutenant of Infantry and assigned as a platoon leader at Fort Benning, Georgia. Entering flying school in June 1929, he graduated a year later, transferred to the  Air Corps  and was assigned to Langley Field. Assigned in June 1933 to the 65th Service Squadron  at Luke Field, Hawaii, two years later General Spivey became engineering officer of the 64th School Squadron at Kelly Field, Texas,  and in January 1936 was named assistant engineering officer there. In April 1936 he became an instructor at the flying school at Kelly Field, and a year later was appointed chief of the bomb section there. Becoming materiel officer of the 23rd Composite Group  in July 1938, with which he served at Maxwell Field, Alabama and Orlando, Florida., two years later the general assumed command of a squadron at the Air Corps Proving Ground, Eglin Field, Florida., and in January 1941 was appointed executive officer of the Air Corps Proving Ground. The following April he assumed command of the Fixed Gunnery School at Eglin Field, and in February 1942 was named commander of the Central Instructors School and Flexible Gunnery School at Fort Myers, Florida. A year later the General was designated operations officer of the Southeast Training Command at Maxwell Field, remaining there until June 1943. Serving with the Eighth Air Force  in Europe, on 12-08-1943, while piloting a B-17 on a mission over Germany, General Spivey was shot down. Spivey became the highest ranking prisoner of war in the ETO.

On 27-01-1945, the prisoners of all three compounds of Stalag Luft III   were hastily evacuated as the Russians advanced from the east and the camp complement and guards began a march in a blizzard to the garrison town of Spremberg, a sixty mile journey that took three days, and which was as hard on the guards as it was for the prisoners. There, Spivey and General Arthur William Vanaman

 , the highest ranking American prisoner to bail out over Germany during the war, were separated from the POWs, the “kriegies” going by train to a large camp at Moosburg, in Eastern Bavaria, and the two officers taken to Berlin to meet with representatives of SS Obergruppenführer Gottlob Berger, who was still in charge of Luftwaffe prison camps. General Arthur William Vanaman died 14-09-1987, age 95.

When SS Obergruppenführer Gottlob Berger   died on 05-01-1975, age 77, in Gerstetten, Spivey ordered a bronze plate on the grave with the text :  In grateful memory of Gottlob Berger General of the Waffen SS who protected and cared for US Air Force prisoners of war during WWII. One wonders about the much-touted German-American friendship as Berger was a real war criminal who was blamed for the POW death marches. The indictment read: that between September 1944 and May 1945, hundreds of thousands of American and Allied prisoners of war were compelled to undertake forced marches in severe weather without adequate rest, shelter, food, clothing and medical supplies; and that such forced marches, conducted under the authority of the defendant Berger, chief of Prisoner-of-War Affairs, resulted in great privation and deaths to many thousands of prisoners.

  Prisoners were forced to march long distances in bitter cold, with little or no food, water, or rest. Those who could not keep up were shot. The largest death marches took place in the winter of 1944-1945, when the Soviet army began its liberation of Poland. Nine days before the Soviets arrived at Auschwitz, the Germans marched tens of thousands of prisoners out of the camp toward Wodzislaw, a town thirty-five miles away, where they were put on freight trains to other camps. About one in four died on the way.

“Working through the Swiss government, Berger made arrangements for Red Cross parcels supplies to be delivered from Geneva to Allied prisoners of war who were being moved from the Eastern Front. Like his earlier effort to prevent his own SS from taking over control of the Luft camps after the Great Escape, this was a calculated effort by Berger to appease the approaching Western Allies.

After arranging for Red Cross food relief, Berger summoned Vanaman and Spivey to his heavily guarded headquarters. He wanted Vanaman to take a message to Dwight Eisenhower  conveying his desire to negotiate – by secret radio codes – a separate peace with the Western Allies. This would allow a reinvigorated Wehrmacht to push the Russians back to the Oder. High-ranking army officers would then murder Hitler and Heinrich Himmler – who were madmen, Berger said – and arrange an ‘orderly and correct surrender’ of the country to the Western Allies. Berger would do this, he told Spivey and Vanaman, to save his country from the Bolshevik beasts. He also claimed that he wanted to save the lives of Allied POWs, whom Hitler was threatening to kill as payback for Dresden.

Vanaman agreed to work with Berger only after he stopped the forced POW marches and sped up food delivery to the men. He and Spivey were then smuggled into neutral Switzerland and Vanaman flown to France to meet with Lieutenant General Carl Spaatz who was incredulous at Berger’s peace proposal. “‘Somebody sure pulled your leg,’ he told Vanaman. He then sent Vanaman to Washington to get rid of him. The General made a full report to the War Department which was conspicuously ignored.”

Upon return to allied control in April 1945, Colonel Spivey was assigned to the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Forces  in Europe.

In August 1945 Colonel Spivey became assistant Chief of Air Staff for Personnel of the Air Training Command at Fort Worth, Texas. The following month he was named assistant to the Chief of Staff of the Air Training Command, and in October 1945 was appointed deputy chief of staff of the command, retaining that position when the command headquarters moved to Barksdale Field, Louisiana, in April 1946.

Returning to the United States in February 1953, the General was appointed Commanding General of the Central Air Defense Force, Air Defense Command, at Kansas City, Missouri. Moving to Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama , in July 1954, he was designated commandant of the Air War College, Air University, when he became a patient at the Air University Hospital.

Delmar T. Spivey shakes the hand of a young Culver cadet in this 1957 photograph.  His decorations include the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal and the Order of the British Empire (Honorary Commander). He is rated a command pilot.

Death and burial ground of Spivey, “Del” Delmar Taft.

His wife Virginia Baen Street Spivey died old age 90 on 22-10-1997 in Largo, Pinellas County, Florida, USA

Delmar Taft  Spivey died 18-01-1982, aged 76, at the Episcopal Church of Ascension in Clearwater, Florida and is buried with his wife Virginia, born Baen Street, who died 22-10-1997 on the United States Military Academy Post Cemetery West Point, Orange County, New York, USA  Section XVI, Row E, Site 100.


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