Send your Safety Testimonials to General Spruance

To: General Spruance                       Date: August 12, 2006
From: Jeffrey Macal
Subject: Testimonial

Hopefully nothing will happen to me in the future, but reading these safety instructions will hopefully save my life. Knock on wood. Thanks

TSgt Jeffrey Macal
Ophthalmology Department
WHMC, TX 78236

To: General Spruance                       Date: August 2, 2006
From: Dr. Clifford E Rhoades, Jr.

Dear General Spruance,

By accident, I came across your safety briefing today on the Internet. It brought back vivid memories of your lecture to AFROTC, Detachment 500, Princeton University in 1970. If my memory serves me correctly, you mentioned briefing the then Air Force Chief of Staff, General John D. Ryan, about Nomex flightsuits, and having the opportunity to demonstrate on the General its fire retardant capabilities. l served with General Michael E. Ryan, son of General John D. Ryan, and was his guest at the Chief of Staff’s quarters on Fort Myers. After all these years, I have retired from the Air Force reserves and the Air Force civil service, with my last assignment as SES Director of Mathematics and Space Sciences at Air Force Office of Scientific Research. I have, thank God, never been involved in a serious accident, but your briefing has remained with me.

Best wishes,


Dr. Clifford E. Rhoades, Jr.
Project Manager for Institutes
DoD HPC Modernization Program Office

To: General Spruance                       Date: June 19, 2006
From: Ellen Graney
Subject: ERAU

Dear General Spruance - Thank you for putting your presentation on the internet thus making it possible for me to have my 19 year old daughter see it and learn from it.   I saw your presentation back in 1978 at ERAU Daytona Beach when I worked there as the director of alumni affairs - your presentation has stuck with me all these years and your advice resounds in my ears every time I get in a motor vehicle or aircraft!  I will never forget my years at E-RAU because I was had the opportunity to meet and work with such incredible people like yourself and Jack Hunt! 


Ellen Graney 

(Ellen Zacharias in 1978)

To: General Spruance                       Date: December 5, 2005
From: Nick Caulfield
Subject: Great Web Site General!

Dear General Spruance,

Thanks for providing me with your card and web address. It was an honor to meet and speak with you at the BWI airport.

I will share your site address with our pilots and hopefully further your message of safety and survival. Your work and accomplishments are incredible. Please stay safe, enjoy the holidays and thank you for your service to our country.


Nick Caulfield
SWA Pilot

P.S. Thanks for flying with us at SWA! Look very forward to seeing you on another flight soon!

To: General Spruance                       Date: June 16, 2005
From: Jim Myrick
Subject: Hello - Thank You - Best Wishes

General Spruance, Hello!

I found your contact info on the ERAU site and recalled attending one of your briefings early on in my Army career. I graduated Army rotary wing flight training on 18 May 1970 and was flying with the 162nd Assault Helicopter (Vultures) in Vietnam the following month. I retired at the end of March 1995 from the Army as a CW 4, Aviator (I previously served a hitch in the Marine Corps also).  During my career (Aviation Warrant) I served as Division Aviation Safety Officer at Fort Ord, California and Fort Wainwright, Alaska with two tours at the Army SafetyCenter investigating Aviation accidents worldwide.  Your briefing along with my own feelings about Safety nudged me to pursue the Safety path throughout my carrer.  THANK YOU and BEST WISHES!
Jim Myrick, CW4, USA (Vulture 19) 
 To: General Spruance                       Date: April 16, 2005
From: Ken Beckmann
Subject: Thank You

Tonite I was involved in a auto accident where our stopped car was rear-ended. Because I heard your safety briefing last spring in Prof. Bill Waldock's class at ERAU Prescott, I had positioned the headrest "just in case" to minimize whiplash. This is a habit I've forced myself into since hearing your pitch. While not a life-threatening accident, I have been spared much discomfort. And for that, I thank you.

Ken Beckmann

To: General Spruance                       Date: February 17, 2005
From: 2nd Lt. Wayde Minami
Subject: 135th Airlift Safety Article

As of this February, the Maryland Air National Guard’s 135th Airlift Squadron has racked up some 172,000 flying hours, encompassing nearly 46 years without a major mishap. It’s an impressive achievement, of which the unit is rightfully proud.

Like all such records, the 135th’s stems from a combination of conservative flying, careful maintenance, and at least some measure of dumb luck.

Luck is an essential – if unquantifiable – part of any record, be it home runs hit, yards rushed, or accidents averted. But as any baseball player, quarterback, or aviator will attest, luck is a fickle thing, upon which only a fool relies. And the men and women of the 135th are no fools.

The unit has worked hard to infuse a culture of safety into everything they do. From incorporating operational risk management into the flying program to debriefs of major safety issues, flying safety is a top priority.

Just how seriously the group takes safety is evident in their record. In addition to 46 years without a major mishap, the unit has won the William W. Spruance Safety Award four times, most recently in 2004, and the Maj. Gen. John J. Pesch Flight Safety Award three times, in addition to numerous other awards and commendations.

Still, the fliers of the 135th are cognizant that what counts aren’t the hours you’ve accumulated in the past, the hours you’ll accumulate today and tomorrow.

Maj. Wilford Davis, the air operations officer of the 135th Troop Carrier Squadron (forerunner of today’s 135th Airlift Squadron), was an instructor pilot and had more flying time than any other member of the Maryland Air National Guard on the night he died.

Major Davis was one of six members of the 135th killed on April 15, 1959, when the SA-16 Albatross on which he was flying crashed shortly after take off, killing all aboard. Whether it was pilot error, mechanical failure, or just bad luck will never be known, as the cause of the accident was never determined.

It was the 135th’s last fatal accident, and the unit hopes to keep it that way.

“We never want to lose an airplane or a life, especially to something avoidable,” said Lt. Col. Thomas E. Hans, the 135th Airlift Group’s deputy commander for operations. “ The ‘safety culture’ that we have cultivated through the years by learning from each others mistakes and the interface with maintenance has proven its self.”

To: General Spruance                       Date: September 18, 2004
From: Rick Weiss
Subject: Flight to Las Vegas

On September 14, I was honored, privileged, and excited to have the pleasure of BG Spruance's presence aboard Southwest flight 2612, from Baltimore to Las Vegas.

More than 30 years ago the General gave a presentation to my Army National Guard Battalion. Although, I don't remember his words verbatim, I do live by the message.

Having just survived two combat tours as an army helicopter pilot, I was invincible. BG Spruance chased that crazy notion away, and convined me to live to fly like my life depended on it.

Now, as a proud Captain for Southwest Airlines, BG Spruance's lessons are passed to the young pilots in my "right seat". Hopefully, they will do the same.

Lessons become knowledge, knowledge that is passed becomes wisdom, wisdom becomes power, power becomes a way of life.  

Thank you General Spruance.

Very Respectfully

Rick Weiss
Captain, Southwest Airlines

To: General Spruance                       Date: August 22, 2004
From: Adam Stryker
Subject: Website

General, this is Adam Stryker (brittanys boyfriend) I just wanted to let you know that when you gave me the 1000 bill the other day at lunch I took it home and checked out the website. I must say that your website (easy to navigate, good links and user friendly) and the presentation are all very well done and very professional. The pictures along with all of the information was interesting and well put together. It was fascinating to see the pictures of your crash as well as read the biography of your service history, and the other related information that you have on there. I just wanted to drop a quick note and let you know that I enjoyed the website.


Adam Stryker

To: General Spruance                       Date: May 3, 2004
From: David Yuers
Subject: Passing of Johney Edward James

Less than a week after his commissioning a promising young man's life is gone. I am still in a state of shock! It's hard to make sense of it.

Unfortunately I've known too many good young people who have passed on - and yet it never, ever makes sense. At times like this I can only echo and reemphasize that having Faith is the only comfort and refuge one can really cling to during tragedies like this.

This country lost an outstanding officer, the Air Force lost a great pilot, and we have lost a friend. I won't lie and say Johney was perfect, none of us are - and he got on my nerves a little the first week or two - but we all saw this young man grow and mature so much ... and it sickens me when I think of all that potential gone. I have to say that reading that he wasn't wearing a seat belt and that he was pinned for an hour hasn't done much to assuage my anger either.

I'm sure he is in heaven right now - a better place than this 'vale of tears' - but I'm still outraged, shocked, grief-stricken and numbed by the loss to his family, friends, colleagues and country.
'Death - Be Not Proud'

A 'lean-forward, hard-charging, Type A' personality was how his Faculty Adviser at the Air National Guard Academy of Military Science characterized him - and he was. But he was thoughtful and introspective as well.

Rest assured none of us will ever forget him.

May his soul rest in peace,
David Yuers

To: Brig. Gen.(ret.) Spruance                        Date: April 9, 2002
From: William E. Spruance
Subject: Congratulations Dad!!!


Dear Dad,

I am sure that there will be many people in the future that will benefit from the safety advice that will be administered from his multimedia center. I also feel very confident that you'll be able to save many more lives in airplanes and in automobiles as you have done in the past.

Personally I have benefited from your flight safety crash survival speech for at least two occasions in an automobile. In both of these automobile accidents I would have sustained substantially more serious injury if I had not had my seat belt and shoulder harness on as you have advised me repeatedly to do since your T-33 crash.

After paying the one dollar fine on many occasions for not having my seat belt fastened at the time that my automobile was in motion has made me fastened my seat belt automatically every time I sit in my car. I have used this procedure in instructing my daughters Elizabeth and Nicole (your granddaughters) and have had beneficial results in both automobile accidents that they have been involved in so far.

During my career as a pilot I used many of the items on your aircraft safety checklists to enhance the safety of myself and all my passengers. Fortunately the only time that I had to use your emergency checklist was when the landing gear of a single engine Comanche would not come down properly.

After going through the normal landing gear extension instructions I remembered to leaving the door slightly ajar in case of the fuselage was warped so bad that the firemen would have to cut me out with a fire ax. My eggression from the aircraft was without incident due to the fact that the door was already open. The only thing that I would add to your emergency eggression checklist would be that once the doors opened and you have climbed out on the wing run like hell.

I find it hard to imagine how rewarding it must be to know that you have saved so many lives by your near death experience at midlife. I don't believe this type of experience is one that most people would encounter as a standard midlife crisis.

I thank you for your efforts in preventing accidents to me and my immediate family and all of the other lives that you have saved as a result of your dedicated service to the promotion of safety in automobiles and aircraft.


William E. Spruance

To: Brig. Gen.(ret.) Spruance                        Date: March 18, 2002
From: George A. Vitzthum
Subject: Gen Spruance's Building Dedication/Eye witness of Gen. Spruance crash
Title: Crash Witness

Gen Spruance,

I really wanted to be present for your special day. We have had a very pleasant and long relationship over the years. We have an opportunity to visit our daughter, Major Carmella V. Lawson, who is stationed in Japan and our two grandsons. We are leaving March 21st and won't be returning until April 30th.

I can't believe its been over 40 years since I first met you in a very precarious situation at Scott AFB, IL in June of 1961. I was a young Staff Sergeant stationed at Scott AFB and was working the flightline that Sunday that you and your colonel friend landed at Scott to refuel your T-33 aircraft and get some weather information. You all were coming from Colorado from some sort of conference and were headed back to Delaware.

I was the individual that furnished ground support for your aircraft. I never had an opportunity to say much to you and the colonel, but did say a few words with a salute and you guys were off. As I recall, the T-33 never gained much altitude after it left the runway. There was a fellow airman with me handling the support equipment for your aircraft. As we watched you all get airborne, the airman and myself said it sounds as if the T-33 lost power and started to glide. Then I said I believe they are going to crash. A few moments later we got a call from the control tower stating that the T-33 had indeed crashed about 1/2 mile from the end of the runway. We got a emergency vehicle while someone got the chaplain on duty and other support personnel and headed for the crash site.

The T-33 had just missed a large elm tree and landed in a small creek and swampy area. The aircraft had headed straight into the creek and landed on the bank of the creek. When we arrived, General, you were on the bank and still alive but in a badly injured condition. How you got out of the aircraft is a miracle. The colonel who was piloting the aircraft was still in the cockpit and was dead. The chaplain, who was a catholic priest, gave you the last rites.

You were taken to the base hospital and I heard later that you were flown to a burn center in Texas.

I spent the next several days with other individuals collecting the aircraft debris and taking the T-33 pieces back to a hanger at Scott for federal investigators to determine the cause of the accident.

I never really thought a lot about this incident in 1961 until I joined the ANG NCO Academy staff in 1970 and you started coming to all the different classes at McGhee-Tyson and talked on "SAFETY."

I believe that the impact of you stressing safety in your lectures to military and civilian personnel around the world has probably saved more lives than any other person in the military.

I hope this is a very rewarding day and I will be thinking of you on this occasion while enjoying Japan.

A friend and fellow Guardsmen,

George A. Vitzthum, CMSgt, (Ret)

To: Brig. Gen.(ret.) Spruance                        Date: July 2, 2001
From: Sid Shaw

General Bill Spruance literally walked into my life in December 1961, less than six months after his extraordinary escape from the crash of a T-33 in which he was a passenger.

As an Airman one-stripe, I was sitting at a desk making up a weekend drill when he walked through the door. He was the first general officer I had ever seen and was fresh out of the burn center at Randolph AFB in San Antonio. I jumped to my feet and stood at attention. He gave me an "as you were" and I had my first opportunity to look at a man who appeared to have been through a flaming hell.

The general had a PR idea he wanted to share with the SMSgt for whom I was working. Nothing new about that. I later learned the general always was working on some idea he wanted to share.

After discussing the plan with the SMSgt, the general turned and started to leave the room. He stopped in front of my desk where I was still standing and asked, "Did you hear what we were discussing?" I responded in the affirmative and he then asked, "What do you think about it?"

Although I had been a radio and television performer and newsman for almost nine years, I was taken aback. I turned to the SMSgt and said, "I've never seen a general before. What do you say when one asks you what you think.?"

The sergeant half smiled and said, "This one you tell what you really think."

I turned back to the general and said, "Frankly, sir, I think your idea stinks."

The general looked at me pretty closely and said, "Come to my office."

For a variety reasons that defy explanation, I had been in the Air National Guard for four years and was still wearing the one stripe I had been awarded upon completion of basic training. My thought at the moment was, "Oh, well, this is the end of an otherwise ignominious career."

We entered the general's office and he closed the door. He told me to relax and asked me how I would handle the PR idea. I said I understood what he wanted to accomplish, he just needed to take a different approach. We talked for a few minutes and he asked me if I could move the idea to a reality. I said I could and he told me to get to it and if I ran into any headwinds, just tell them General Spruance said for me to do it.

That was the beginning of a relationship that became a friendship based on mutual respect that remains true today 40 years after we met. He still calls me with ideas and I still tell him what I think.

I believe the ability of a general to ask an unknown lowest ranking airman what he thinks and listen to a different point of view is the mark of an extraordinary officer and a gentleman.

Edward S. (Sid) Shaw, Lt Col, Ret.

SMSgt Wayne Smith                      8 December 1993
2137 Atlanta Circle
Andrews AFB, MD 20335

B/Gen William W. Spruance
26 Treasure Island Road
Marathon, FL 33050-2524

     ...Thank you one more time for having been such an effective and motivating speaker at my Airman Leadership School Class a little over fourteen years ago.
     I was so impressed by your safety presentation that I left the auditorium with the intention to never think twice about using seatbelts again. In fact, I soon gave seatbelts no thought at all, because using them became as natural a part of the operation of the vehicle as putting the key in the ignition. The only time I gave seatbelts any thought was when I insisted on my passengers wearing them. I did allow a freedom of choice however … they could wear their seatbelts or walk.
     When I married in 1983 my new bride made the following brash statement when we got in my car to go to the reception, "You better make me happy!" I simply replied, "You better put on your seatbelt!"
     The real story I have to tell you came a year later. My wife was on the way to drop off our newborn son with her sister, on her way to work. It was a foggy morning in the early fall with a misty drizzling rain. As she was coming around a curve, she was surprised to see a semi-tractor truck with a trailer backing across the road on which she was traveling. It happened so quickly that her reaction was to brake hard, hoping to stop. Unfortunately, her brakes locked and her car slid under the trailer bed, shattering the windshield and curling the top of the car down and backward against the front seats. Luckily she lay down in time to have everything pass overhead. My son was in an approved car seat and buckled in. Neither my wife nor son was hurt in the accident but I took them to the hospital at Ft. Knox, KY for observation by a doctor just to be on the safe side. On the way to the hospital my wife thanked me for the first time for my "obsession with seat-belts." At the emergency room a doctor and nurse were shocked to find the baby without a cut. The impact of the crash had been great enough that there were pieces of the shattered windshield in the baby's diaper, even though he was thoroughly wrapped in a blanket and wearing a "sleeper". The doctor told me, "It's obvious that this child was in a car-seat and seal-belts were in use. You were lucky!"
     Was I lucky? Yes and No. I'm more than lucky to have escaped a tragedy of the loss of loved ones, but I've thought about that statement and I'm not sure the doctor understood where the luck started and stopped. Without those seatbelts, my wife and son would have died that morning. I have no doubt that there was no "luck" involved, just a good habit.
     My "luck" was to be sitting in the audience fourteen years ago, listening to a Guest Speaker for my Leadership School class, and being influenced in a way that I wouldn't realize for many years.
     I regret that I didn't fulfill my obligation to you by taking pictures of the vehicle from which my wife and child survived. I owe you a great deal for what you taught me that day. I guess the next best thing is to send you a picture of the success of your message, my son, alive and well and now nine years old. I'd like to introduce him to you someday, so that he could meet one of my Heroes. I could never thank you enough! If there is ever anything I can do for you sir, please don't hesitate to call on me.

Wayne Smith, SMSgt, USAF
ANG Visual Information Services Superintendent

To: General Spruance                       Date: June 30, 1977
From: Dianne Thompson
Subject: Accident - life saved because of your safety lecure

Babba Dearing was in a GLIDER CRASH about ten days ago. He broke both legs and fractured an ankle. Took about 30 minutes to cut him out of the glider. Tow plane had engine trouble and cut him loose before glider had gained sufficient speed. Crashed from about 40 feet. Said when he realized what was happening, he rolled into the embryo position and feels that is what saved his life. He should be released from the hospital tomorrow.

He just wanted to thank you.


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