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WGCDR Louis Spence KIA


9 SEP 1950: The Korean War and O11315 WGCDR Louis Thomas Spence is killed. Wing Commander Lou Spence, 77 Squadron RAAF, is killed during a ground attack mission over Angang-ni, Korea. Two months after No 77 Squadron was committed to operations in Korea, the unit’s Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Lou Spence, was killed in action on this day. He led four Mustangs in an attack on storage facilities at Angang-ni, north of Pusan in South Korea, which had been recently captured by Communist forces.

His aircraft failed to pull out of a steep dive at low altitude and was seen to crash into the centre of the town, exploding on impact.

His death came two weeks after Lieutenant General George Stratemeyer, commander of the (American) Far East Air Forces, made a surprise visit to the squadron base at Iwakuni, Japan, to present him with the medal of the American Legion of Merit; he was posthumously awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross he had received in 1942 for service in the Western Desert.

Spence was born in Bundaberg, Queensland, on 4 April 1917. From an early age he excelled at sports, particularly tennis, and he represented his school’s first teams in cricket and Rugby League.

He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in March 1940 and was accepted for flying training.

Near the end of his course Spence was promoted to flying officer and, after gaining his wings, was sent to North Africa, where he joined No. 3 Squadron, RAAF, flying Kittyhawk fighters.

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1942 for his skills in air combat. He returned to Australia later that year as an instructor and finished the war in command of No. 452 Squadron, flying Spitfire fighters.

He briefly returned to civilian life after the war, but returned to the RAAF in 1946. He was initially posted to Canberra and then to the RAAF College at Point Cook, Victoria, where he was commanding officer of the cadet squadron.

Spence was promoted to wing commander in February 1950 and was sent to Iwakuni, Japan, to take command of No. 77 Squadron, RAAF. Initially, his role was to ready the squadron for return to Australia, but when North Korea crossed the 38th Parallel on 25 June Spence readied his squadron for action.

It was not long in coming. The North Koreans had great early success, driving South Korean and American forces back to what became known as the Pusan Perimeter.

Spence led his squadron from the front, flying many operations as well as maintaining the administrative duties and other functions of a unit commanding officer. In August 1950 he was awarded the American Legion of Merit by the commander of the American Far East Air Force, Lieutenant General George E. Stratemeyer, and in early September found out that he had been selected to attend Staff College in Britain in early 1951.

On 9 September he led a flight of four Mustangs over Korea, flying ground-attack missions against North Korean targets still trying to break the Pusan Perimeter.

During a low-level ground attack on storage facilities at An’gang-ni, South Korea, Spence’s Mustang was seen attempting to pull out of a dive before hitting the ground at high speed and exploding.

It was only after allied troops broke out from the Pusan Perimeter a little over a week later that Spence’s body was able to be recovered from the wreck.

Wing Commander Louis Thomas Spence was laid to rest in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery at Pusan, South Korea. He was posthumously awarded a bar to his Distinguished Flying Cross and was also awarded the American Air Medal.

Lieutenant General Stratemeyer remembered him as “one of the noblest and finest officers of any service” he had ever known. Photo: Iwakuni, Japan. 1950-08-22. Lieutenant General George E. Stratemeyer, Commanding General of the US Far East Air Force, congratulates Wing Commander Louis Spence DFC, No. 77 Squadron RAAF, after decorating him with the Legion of Merit. Spence was KIA at Angangi-ni, Korea.


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