How one dad joined sons in WWII
By KELLY BURCH | Gloucester Daily Times, Mass. | Published: October 7, 2013
GLOUCESTER, Mass. — In some military families, each generation corresponds to services in a war: Grandpa in World War II, Dad in Vietnam, and a son or daughter in Iraq.
It’s less common, however, to have two generations actively serving during the same war.
Yet, that’s exactly what happened to the Spofford family of Georgetown when Harold M. Spofford, then 49, enlisted in 1943, joining the military services with his two sons, Roland in the Navy and Harold B. in the Army.
“He always said, ‘If they have both my boys, they’re going to get me,’” said Harold M.’s grandson, Richard Spofford, 67, of Georgetown. The family’s strong military history inspired Richard to try to enlist during the Vietnam War, but he was rejected because of his football injuries.
Enlisting wasn’t easy for Richard’s grandfather, either. Although he wanted to serve, getting into the military at nearly 50 years old was no small task back then.
Harold was laughed out of the local recruiting office, but he was persistent. One day, he told his wife that he was going to Boston to enlist. No one expected he’d get in.
“My mother almost fainted,” Richard’s father wrote in his memoir.
For two years, the three men were stationed all over the world. When the war ended, Richard’s father continued his military career, while his grandfather and uncle returned to civilian life.
Richard grew up hearing their stories, and celebrating the family’s military history has become his dedicated passion. His father hand-wrote volumes of memoirs, so when North of Boston Media Group made a call out for veteran photos and stories for the upcoming publication, “Salute to Veterans,” Richard was eager to get the Spoffords’ story recognized.
After enlisting, Richard’s grandfather served in the Hawaiian Islands, before being honorably discharged in 1945. Roland was deployed aboard the USS Arkansas to the European African and Middle Eastern Theaters.
Meanwhile, the younger Harold was waiting on U.S. soil to find out where he would be sent. However, instead of being deployed, Harold found himself in officer training school, thanks — oddly enough — to his baseball talents.
Harold, who had played baseball at Cornell, was in Virginia with his unit. He ran into an acquaintance, a ballplayer from Yale, who had admired Harold’s pitching. The acquaintance was now a high-ranking official who was able to get Harold on track to be an officer.
“Talk about being in the right place at the right time,” Richard said.
After becoming a captain in 1944, the younger Harold was the most well-paid of the Spofford men, which led to some comical moments.
“One day he received two letters — one from his dad and one from his brother,” Richard said. “Both said the same thing: ‘Am Broke. Send Money.’”
Harold continued rising through the ranks of the Army and later the active duty reserves, until he retired in 1970 as a lieutenant colonel. He always took pride in the unique role that his family played in The Great War. However, one of Harold’s proudest moments came when Richard’s daughter and his only grandchild, Mary, enlisted in the Army in 2006.
“He got to go see her off,” Richard said. “He had his canes, but he insisted that he was coming in.”
Mary was deployed to Iraq for four months and is currently serving as a JAG officer at Fort Hood in Texas.
Richard is especially pleased that his father was able to see Mary carry on the family legacy. In fact, she left from the same staging area in Boston where Harold said goodbye to family 64 years before.
“How the hell can you beat that?” Richard asked.