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East Side Story: Veteran recognized for his efforts

Posted: May 29, 2012 12:36 a.m.
Updated: May 29, 2012 12:36 a.m.

Korean War veteran Bernie Katz, left, chats with World War II veteran Sam Spiegel where they both received recognition for their military service at a Memorial Day ceremony held at Friendly Valley Auditorium on Monday.

Cpl. Sam Spiegel may have served overseas in England in World War II, but he's modest about his time in the United States Army Air Force, saying that others were worse off than he was.

"I was very lucky because of the type of work I did," Spiegel said. "I didn't have to carry a gun.

"There was always someone worse off than me."

Spiegel spent his time in the Air Force working on aircraft engines and was part of the squadron that worked to put auxiliary fuel tanks on the P-51 bombers - which helped knock out the German Air Force, Spiegel said. His squadron received the Presidential Unit Citation for their work on the bombers.

On Monday, Spiegel also received recognition from the Friendly Valley Veterans Club - which he used to command - during a special ceremony at Friendly Valley Auditorium. Also recognized were Korean War veterans Lou Adler and George Patton.

Although Spiegel may not have carried a gun during his service, he did wield a rather large screwdriver as he worked without power tools to affix the fuel tanks to the planes. He said he basically used a 2x4 with a big screwdriver to complete his work during 10-hour shifts.

Spiegel served from Aug. 20, 1942, to Dec. 22, 1945, and was stationed overseas for 3.5 years, he said. He was stationed in England for most of his service.

For Spiegel, the most memorable part of the war was when he was in London on leave and the Germans were attacking with "buzz bombs" - big bombs that didn't have pilots.

"When the engine would quit, it would drop," Spiegel said.

He stayed overnight in a home with a family who had lived in the home for a few years, but when they emerged the next day, an entire block of buildings - just one block away - had been destroyed by a bomb.

"Much of London was leveled," Spiegel recalls.

Despite the hardships everyone experienced in World War II, Spiegel said the Air Force was lucky compared to servicemen in other branches of the military during the war.

"We had it good compared to everyone else," Spiegel said. "They felt the Air Force was overtaking the war.

"The guys on the ground worked to it."

Spiegel sailed home on the Queen Mary after the war ended in 1945 and later married his wife, Etta Spiegel, after meeting her on a blind date. The couple moved to California in 1955, where Spiegel worked as a jewelry manufacturer's representative.

The Spiegels moved to Friendly Valley in 1988 and have now been married 63 years, Spiegel said. Spiegel - now 92 years old - says the secret to success in his relationship is that he and his wife go to their favorite restaurant twice a week. Spiegel joked that they don't go together, but go on separate days.

"Sam has always had a tremendous sense of humor and a phenomenal memory," Etta Spiegel said.

Sam Spiegel said he's happy that he managed to make it back from the war in one piece and was honored that the Friendly Valley Veterans Club was honoring him.

"I'm very happy and very thankful that I'm here," Spiegel said.




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