03/02/11 — World War II ace dies at age 88

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World War II ace dies at age 88

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on March 2, 2011 1:46 PM

A World War II ace -- a man who characterized himself, just a few months ago, as one of the "grandfathers" of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base's 4th Fighter Wing -- died Tuesday.

Frank Speer, who is credited with destroying six German aircraft during World War II, traveled to Goldsboro in late October to meet some of the newest members of the unit he joined back in 1944.

And during his brief stint in Wayne County, he talked about his experiences in the cockpit of his beloved P-51, the "Turnip Termite" -- just how he recorded each of his six "kills"; the day he was forced to take the iconic aircraft down in a field; how after 300 miles of evading enemy forces, he was captured and taken prisoner; the day he escaped.

Speer was 88 years old.

And he will likely be remembered by those who met him on and around Seymour Johnson just a few months ago as a man who understood the price tag of living a boyhood dream -- a dream he admitted he would never trade, despite his quips to contrary.

"I've often said, 'It was the greatest experience of my life, but I wouldn't do it again for anybody,'" Speer said with a grin during his visit.