______Interview with 'Woodie' Spears, Tuskegee Airman
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Preamble to the Interview with Lt. Leon "Woodie" Spears
Tuskegee Fighter Pilot, the late Lt. Leon ‘Woodie” Spears was born in Colorado in 1924. He earned his wings on June 24, 1944 with the class of 44F at Tuskegee, Alabama. He was an original "Red Tail" serving with the 301st Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group.
He mastered the P-40, P-39, P-47 and the P-51. He served his country in both WW2 and Korea. Mr. Spears flew 51 combat missions in the “P-51” with a '51' buzz number on the side at Ramitelli, Italy. He scored a number of ground victories as well as getting a shared air combat victory over a German HE-111 bomber. I met Mr. Spears through the Tuskegee Airmen organization in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 90’s. The President of the San Francisco Bay Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the late
William “Bell” Jackson introduce me to Mr. Spears during one of the meetings when I was a member of the chapter. It was in early 1999 that I conducted a number of interviews over at his house, including this one. He did not live to far from me, so I would drive down to see “Woodie” to talk about his combat experience over the weekend with tape recorder and note pad in hand. This interview is a edited question/answer piece that was published in Air Classic magazine in 1999. No known photo existed of Mr. Spears whole aircraft called “KITTEN” until this cropped Toni Frissell photograph was discovered. The illustration is the result of a in-depth interview with “Woodie” as he had described his aircraft to me. I also interviewed Charles McGee concerning this same aircraft that he also flew. Please note that when the 302nd Fighter Squadron was disbanded, all the aircraft went to the remaining squadrons. Kitten was picked up by Mr. Spears at a sub-depot station. The aircraft squadron markings were revised and a new “buzz” number was assigned.
|Ed. note:The Allies called these airmen "Red tails" or "Red tail Angels," because of the distinctive crimson paint applied on the vertical stabilizers of the unit's aircraft.