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Original U.S. General Delmar T. Spivey Brigadier General Distinguishing Hoist Flag with 1984 Letter of Provenance From Wife - 9 ½” x 6”

Regular price $595.00

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. Major General Delmar Taft Spivey (August 9, 1905 – January 18, 1982) was an American military officer involved with aerial gunnery systems development, air education, and command structure. During World War II, he was the senior American officer of Center Compound, Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp in Sagan, Germany. 

This flag originally came from the estate of General Delmar Spivey after having been discovered by his wife. An acquaintance had respectfully requested personal items from the General and in the letter this “unusual find” was mentioned in the hand written response from Mrs. Spivey in a letter dated April 1984 which was two years after the General's death. This original letter and envelope are included with this flag. 

In the U.S. military, a "flag officer", is any officer of high enough rank to fly a flag from the location of their command. In the U.S. Army, this applies to Officers of the Brigadier General (1 Star) rank and higher. Flags such as these were often attached to the outside of tents or other locations outside, while a more ornate fringed version would be used inside.

This flag has one star, for a Brigadier General rank officer, and measures 9 ½” x 6". It is made from red wool felt fabric, with stars embroidered onto the center of both sides. One end is stitched into a header, with small pockets on either end with a red securing string. The flag does not have any maker markings that we can see. This was a government issued flag.

Delmar Taft Spivey was born in Gatesville, North Carolina, on August 9, 1905. After graduating from high school at Whaleyville, Virginia, in 1922, he attended the College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia. Graduating from the U.S. Military Academy on June 9, 1928, he 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, Virginia. On February 20, 1930, Lt. Spivey, of the 52d School Squadron (11th School Group), made a forced landing when the motor of Atlantic DH-4M-2, 23–685, failed, the airframe suffering moderate damage when it came down two miles south of Brooks Field, San Antonio, Texas.

The Air Corps News Letter published this account on March 5, 1930:


Three forced landings in two days is the record of Lt. D.T. Spivey. student at Brooks Field, who climaxed the performance by escaping unscathed when his plane was completely demolished in trying to land in a very small field recently. Lt. Spivey started out with the cross-country flight of Brooks Field students to Galveston, Texas, but was forced down near Needham with a broken gas line. By the time he had repaired the line, most of his gas was gone and not having had time to pick out a landing place near any filling stations he had to borrow as much gas as he could from some passing motorists. Taking off again, he headed for Houston, Texas, because he thought he did not have enough gas to get to his destination. Shortly afterwards he discovered he did not have enough to get to Houston and made a second forced landing a few miles outside of that city. This time he was able to get sufficient fuel to get to Galveston, where he stopped overnight.

Upon his return to Brooks Field he was commended for his persistence in seeking his objective and managing two forced landings without mishap. In the afternoon he was assigned to formation flying. The formation returned to the field at about 3:00 p.m., but before reaching his destination the motor of his DH machine went bad, and for the third time he hurriedly scanned the ground below in search of a convenient pasture. The only one available was a small one, bordered by trees. Lieut. Spivey managed to land, but when he did so the plane separated into its component parts and assorted small bits.

"Three times and out," observed Lt. Spivey as he disentangled himself from the wreckage, checked himself over to see if he was still complete, and waved the rest of the flight, now circling overhead, back to the field. Somewhat later he returned to Brooks none the worse for the crash, although one glance at the wreck was enough to convince officials at the field that the plane was not worth repairing."

World War II
In April 1942, Lt. Col. Spivey 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 Buckingham Field,Fort Myers, Florida. He arrived there from Maxwell Field on May 9, and four days later was notified of his promotion to full colonel.

While construction workers built the new air field, Col. Spivey assembled a team of instructors drawn from the aerial gunnery school cadre at Tyndall Field located near Panama City, Florida. Tyndall Field instructors trained the first aerial gunnery students before America's entry into the war. Spivey based the initial curricula and training exercises on the previous experience gleaned from the pre-war period. In addition, the extensive literature and field guides from the British Royal Air Force's aerial gunnery school influenced Spivey.

The content and comparison of the curricula of flexible gunnery schools are necessary to an understanding of the discussion of specific training problems. Planning of curricula and preparation of textbooks was the work, in large part, of Maj. W. L. Kennedy and Col. Delmar T. Spivey. The former, after a study of the English flexible gunnery schools in the summer of 1941, prepared the first five week's course at Harlingen and aided in the preparation of textbooks to be used there.[19] Colonel Spivey, project officer at Buckingham Army Air Field, performed a similar service for that station. In the early stages of their existence, flexible gunnery schools used as guide books Training Manual 1–271 and a Navy Department booklet, 'Air Gunnery.' After examining all available publications on gunnery in his planning for the school and comparing the results of his investigation with the subject matter of the two books, Colonel Spivey suggested to LAI? [sic] Headquarters the preparation of another text embracing some principles from each of the former ones.

"Throughout his tenure, Spivey demanded that all officers and enlisted men 'live and think only of gunnery.' Often Spivey was seen on the firing ranges and visiting students in classrooms to provide inspiration and leadership." Col. Spivey remained in command of Buckingham Field until March 23, 1943, when he was designated the A-3 operations officer of the Southeast Training Command at Maxwell Field, remaining there until June 1943.

Assigned with the Eighth Air Force in Europe, on August 12, 1943, while serving as an observer on a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress of the 92d Bomb Group, piloted by Eugene M. Wiley, on a mission to hit the rail marshalling yards at Gelsenkirchen, Germany, in the industrial Ruhr region, Colonel Spivey was shot down. As the USAAF expert on aerial gunnery, he was on this mission to evaluate how to improve gun turrets.

Hit by flak, which knocked out the number one engine, and fighters, which set number three afire, the bomber, B-17F-85-BO, 42-30081,[29] 'P-YO', named "USS Aliquippa", of the 407th Bomb Squadron, 92d Bomb Group, crash-landed near the Dutch border at Ahaus, NW of Münster. All eleven crew were captured. (MACR 655) One source credits Lt. Fritz Karch in a Bf 109G-6 of JG 2/6 with the kill. With his capture, Spivey became the highest ranking prisoner of war in the ETO.

When Colonel Delmar T. Spivey entered [the camp] in late July, [sic] 1943, he was a full colonel and twice the age of most of his fellow inmates. The senior staff immediately realized that his seniority and West Point training would catapult him into prominence as a leader. To reduce the chances of his inadvertently giving away important secrets to the Germans, the staff quickly briefed him on the entire spectrum of camp activities, including the vital covert intelligence and escape work that had been painfully developed during the three years since the first Allied fliers were captured by the Germans.

This included the three escape tunnels well underway, Tom, Dick and Harry. During succeeding days he learned all about the prisoners' forgery operation, covert communications with London and Washington, impressive education and theatrical programs, and robust play on the athletic field.

Two weeks later Spivey assumed command as Senior American Officer (SAO) of Center Compound. Still dazzled by what he had seen, he reflected on the need to record for posterity the amazing activities he saw at every turn. If nothing else, he reasoned, the account might make it easier for the next generation of prisoners and save them the trouble of having to 'invent the wheel all over again.' As logical and intriguing as the idea sounded, Spivey knew there were great risks. The Germans obviously would love to get their hands on so revealing a document. He nonetheless decided to proceed with the effort, knowing that everything hinged on the careful observance of numerous precautions and safeguards.

This coded and carefully hidden history was retrieved and carried at no little risk when the camp was hastily evacuated in late January 1945, as the Germans marched the prisoners away from the rapidly advancing Russian armies. The documents served as the basis and initial impetus for "Stalag Luft III – The Secret Story", a definitive history of the camp, by Col. Arthur A. Durand, USAF (Ret.).

When word reached the camp that 50 of the 76 escapees had been shot after the break out of March 24–25, 1944, Spivey called the prisoners together and told them "Gentlemen, we're helpless and hopeless."

Evacuation and diplomatic intrigue
On January 27, 1945, the prisoners of all three compounds of Stalag Luft III were hastily evacuated as the Soviets 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 W. Vanaman, the highest ranking American prisoner to be captured 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 Lieutenant General Gottlob Berger, who was still in charge of Luftwaffe prison camps.

"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 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 Adolf H and 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 Adolf H 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, Col. Spivey was assigned to the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe. 

A wonderful example ready for further research and display.

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