The Greatest Generation: Part II - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

The Greatest Generation: Part II

The Big Red 1 insignia The Big Red 1 insignia

 May 25, 2004

Albany-- In 1940, Sam Spivey was just 15 years old. His parents had died, and the Alabama teen had no money, so he joined the Army. His uncle signed the papers saying he was 18, and off to Fort Benning he went.

A little more than a year later at just 16, Spivey was called to war.

"That's the division insignia." Sam Spivey was a solider in the Army's First Infantry Division - The Big Red One. "They also called it the 'Bloody One' because we had been in so many battles."

"We felt we were the best outfit in the world." And the men got their first chance to prove it in August of 1942. "You're scared, very anxious."

In North Africa, the soldiers came under intense gunfire. "I saw this soldier. He was hollering for help. I crawled out to him, and his legs were practically off of him. He looked up at me and said 'Please I'm hurting, Shoot me.' I don't know to this day if he meant literally shoot him and put him out of his misery, or give him a shot of morphine. He died just in minutes, you know."

Then, came the battles in Tunisia, Sicily, then the 1st Infantry headed to France. "You stayed tired and hungry most of the time. You just tried to do the best you could because if you didn't, you wouldn't last."

"We were fighting just about every day when we were going across the Rhine." And winning the battles, but at a cost. "I lost two of my best friends ever in the Army."

In France, a few German soldiers hiding in a wheat field snuck up on Spivey's platoon and started shooting. "I got shot in leg and chest. The medic came. I said 'I'm hurting can you get me a shot?' He gave me morphine, and then I was on cloud nine."

Spivey was in the hospital for five months. "I was very bitter. When I went back into combat, I was very fanatical for the first few battles. But, then I found out fanatics can get you killed."

Spivey knew he must stay focused. He was now weapons platoon sergeant. "When you're responsible for a group of people and lose a few of them, it hurts." Replacement soldiers were constantly brought in.

In 1944, the Big Red One went to Normandy. "We hit one of the most fortified beaches in Normandy-- Omaha. It was very, very bloody. They almost didn't take it. They finally got a destroyer close to the beach. It knocked out a couple of pill boxes, and we finally could get in."

Nearly 60 years later, Spivey won't talk about the German soldiers he killed to stay alive.  But he brought home patches from a German's uniform... "This is German Iron Cross for bravery." But he brought home relics of years that will haunt Spivey forever.

More than 21,000 soldiers in the 1st Infantry Division were killed in World War II. Spivey lives here in Albany. He retired from the Army in 1965.

posted at 12:10PM by dave.miller@walb.com

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