NOTAM 05-2016 (Spruit)

Golden Eagle NOTAM
CAPT Robert E. Spruit, USN (Ret)
Golden Eagle Emeritus

Dear Golden Eagles,
It is my sad duty to inform you that Emeritus member, CAPT Robert E. Spruit, USN (Ret), 89 years old, made his Last Take-Off on January 23, 2016 in Virginia Beach, VA.  He was killed in a single car crash in Virginia Beach.  Bob was born in Grand Rapids, MI, on February 2, 1926 to Martin and Johanna Spruit.  In 1955, he married Ellen Funteas, his wife of 51 years.  Ellen passed away on December 31, 2006 and there were no children in the marriage.   Bob is survived by his sister, Joan Steele of Broomfield, CO, and many nieces and nephews.

He joined the flight training program (AVCAD) in September 1943 in Pensacola, FL, attended Navy indoctrination at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, and preflight at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC.  He transferred to Florida for advanced training at NAS Whiting, Bronson, and Saufley Fields flying SNJ and SBD aircraft. He was designated a Naval Aviator on December 21, 1945 and went through Operational Training at NAS Miami flying F6F aircraft and carrier qualified on USS Ranger (CV-4).  He spent 3 years flying in VFB-153, VF-16A, and VF-153 flying F6F and F8F fighters at NAS Alameda, CA, and then he attended the University of Michigan as a student in the Five Term program finishing in July 1951.

Bob served as Hangar Deck and Flight Deck officer on USS Roosevelt (CVA-42) for two years, attended General Line School in Monterey, CA, and then served for 2 years as a Flight Instructor at NAS Whiting in SNJ and T-34 aircraft.  It was during this time that GE Paul Engel and Bob Spruit became such good friends and lived in ‘snake ranches’ across a body of water near Whiting Field and visited one another by boat.  A short stop for training as a Maintenance Officer at NAS Memphis was followed by a 2-year assignment as MO in VA-25 flying AD-6’s at NAS Oceana.  He reported to VA-43 at NAS Oceana in Oct ’58 and served 4 years as an A-4A/B/C Flight Instructor.  Bob was one of my own flight instructors in March through June of ’62 in the A-4 RAG.  He was a very patient, non-yelling instructor whom all the students liked.  In Aug ’62 Bob became Executive Officer and then Commanding Officer of VA-66 at NAS Oceana and flew from USS Enterprise (CVN-65) during her first deployment.  I joined VA-76, a sister A-4 Skyhawk squadron in Aug ’62 aboard the USS Enterprise and we flew several missions together in the Mediterranean Sea and during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  He attended the Naval War College in Newport, RI, and was graduated in July ’65.   He checked out in the F-4B and A-4E aircraft before taking over as Commander, Carrier Air Wing -16 home ported at NAS Lemoore, CA, and deployed aboard USS Oriskany (CV-34) in Vietnam where he flew 66 combat missions in the A-4E.  He planned, participated in and led Alpha Strikes over North Vietnam along with road recce and Iron Hand missions. He was the leader of an Iron Hand four plane flight that destroyed the radar guidance trailer and four of the six missile launchers of a SAM site.  He was assigned to OPNAV Staff in Washington, DC, as OP-05W/506C for almost three years, attended the “Boot Strap” Program, George Washington University. After some Surface Force training in Norfolk, he became the Commanding Officer of USS Aucilla (AO-56) through September ’70. He was assigned as Commander, Delta Naval Forces (CTF-116) Senior Advisor, dual hatted as VNN River Patrol (CTF-112) Binh Thuy, RVN, where he commanded all in country U. S. Navy combat units in Vietnam from Sep ’70 until Sep ’71, consisting of Game Warden PBR’s, SEAL Platoons, HAL-3 (UH-1’s) and VAL-4 (OV-10’s).  These forces conducted coordinated complex air and riverine warfare operations in concert with friendly ground forces, including major operations which penetrated the W-Minh Forest, a long held Viet Cong stronghold.  He personally participated in 450 combat missions in the OV-10 and UH-1L for a total of 516 combat missions. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 2 Bronze Stars with Combat “V”’s and 8 Air Medals. Returning to the USA, he was assigned to CINCLANTFLT Headquarters in Norfolk, VA, as Director of Fleet Operations for 4 years.  CAPT Spruit retired from active duty on Sep 1, 1975.

A funeral service will be held at 12:00 PM on February 4, 2016, at H. D. Oliver Funeral Home, 2002 Laskin Rd, Virginia Beach, VA 23454. Burial will be 10:00 AM on Feb 4, 2016 at the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery, 5310 Milners Road, Suffolk, VA 23434, where Bob’s wife Ellen is buried.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Tailhook Educational Foundation at 9696 Businesspark Ave., San Diego, CA 921312-1643.  Bob was a great Naval Officer, a superb aviator, a gentleman and a friend. He will be missed!


Donald V. Boecker-Pilot