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Building bridges on Okinawa.

WARREN "RED" SPICER'S FAMILY WAS LUCKY: Five sons went to war and five came back. Red was one of them. Just 20 years old, he was drafted in May 1943 and left Cottage Grove, Minnesota, for basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

After graduation Spicer was sent to the New Hebrides Islands in the South Pacific to join Company B of the 102nd Combat Engineering Battalion. He joined the unit on the island of Saipan, as preparations for the Battle of Okinawa were underway. The thought of the coming fight on Okinawa--which would be one of the longest, bloodiest battles of World War II--understandably made many soldiers very anxious. Spicer wasn't exempt from that feeling, but he nonetheless volunteered to give up his safe assignment taking ship inventory to go to Okinawa in place of an older man with a family.

The army engineers barely managed to land on Okinawa due to the constant barrage of Japanese shells. Spicer's company was in charge of building and repairing bridges. While working on a bridge that was 75 percent complete, he looked up to see figures moving in the distance. He realized they were Japanese troops ready to fire. Ironically, the job that put him in danger was what saved him. "The first blast of fire ... went over my head and ran along the top beam of the bridge," he remembered. "The bridge beams were five feet high, and I was standing by one. If I hadn't been bent over, driving those locking pins in place, I probably wouldn't still be alive." Spicer remained on Okinawa for three and a half months. After the Japanese surrender, he flew to Japan to join the occupation force. In February 1946, after two years and nine months overseas, he returned home to Minnesota, where he lived until his death in January 2012.

Submitted by Sue Weiby, daughter of Red Spicer. Written by Allison Charles, editorial intern of America in WWII.

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Author:Weiby, Sue
Publication:America in WWII
Date:Feb 1, 2014
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