EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 6, 2013

Like sons, like father As his boys head off to WWII, dad finds way to join them

By Kelly Burch
kburch@eagletribune.com

---- — GEORGETOWN — 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 Richard Spofford, Harold’s grandson who is 67 and living in 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 Spofford’s 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 ball player 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.

BOOK FEATURES HUNDREDS OF PHOTOS OF LOCAL VETERANS North of Boston Publishing Group is putting out a collector's coffee-table book featuring hundreds of veterans who submitted their pictures, stories and memorabilia for purposes of publication. Due out in early December, in time for holiday giving, "Salute To Veterans" is being offered through Nov. 13 at a special purchase price of $29,95. The book regularly sells for $39.95. This hard-bound book, which recognizes veterans from the Civil War to Modern Warfare, features more than 500 photos -- all of people from the North Shore and Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. If you live here, you will recognize faces. You will also be captivated by a variety of stories told by veterans themselves and talented writers from North of Boston Media Group. To order your copies of "Salute To Veterans" visit http://www.pedimentbooks.com/store/product/merrimack-veterans-book/. You can also call Linda Gardner at The Eagle-Tribune, 978-946-2241. Excerpt from Harold B. Spofford's Memoir "WWII came along. First, my brother, Rollie, enlisted in the Navy and then on June 2, 1942, I was drafted into the Army --four days out of college (Cornell). Dad was about 48-years-old at the time. He had always felt bad that he hadn't been in WWI because I was born. From the day WWII began, he gave Ma a hard time about getting into the service. She told him that he was too old and to just forget it. He tried everything to get in, but was turned down. Finally, one day he said, "I'm going to Boston to see if I can get in to the Seabees." Ma said, "For God's sake, Harold, go in and get it over with," figuring that they would never take him. That night he came home cocky as a peacock: They had accepted him as a Carpenter's Mate in the Seabees. My mother almost fainted." Being in the service made his life. He had enough war stories to last him a lifetime and he could face his cronies up town feeling that he had done his part. The Spofford Family in Georgetown The Spoffords mentioned in this story are direct descendants of John Spofford, the first permanent settler in Georgetown, who arrived in 1669.