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Spinelli, Joseph L.

Joseph Spinelli was born on 27 October 1915 in Huntsville, AL.  Upon graduating from Huntsville High School in 1936, he worked for a local tire builder. He joined the US Army Air Corps on 22 November 1940, where he trained as a radio operator and mechanic. Staff Sergeant Spinelli served in the India-Burma theater and the Central Burma theater during World War II. He flew over 300 operational flight hours in transport aircraft over the dangerous and difficult Assam-China air routes ("The Hump"), where enemy interdiction and attack was probable and expected. Regular Hump operations began in May 1942, with 27 aircraft (converted U. S. Airline DC-3s, C-39s and C-53s) and approximately 1,100 personnel from New Malir Air Base, a British base located in the Sind Desert about 20 miles east of Karachi, India. The aircraft and personnel were members of the First Ferry Group, provided by the U. S. Army Air Forces Ferry Command. The Group was attached to the U. S. Army 10th Air Force, newly established in India for logistical support and headquartered in New Delhi. Their first regular Hump operations crossed India and commenced the Hump leg of their flights from Dinjan, a British Air Base located in the upper Assam Valley. During April and May approximately 96 tons of supplies were delivered to China. The Hump took such a toll on aircraft operations that it became known as "Aluminum Alley" due to the large number of downed aircraft along the route.  On a clear day, you could see the sun reflecting off the wreckage of crashed planes lying there.  Flying at night as well as by day, at high altitude over impassable mountainous terrain characterized by extremely treacherous weather conditions, they accomplished their missions with distinction.  Their heroic achievements in the face of regular hazards and difficulties required reflected much credit on Staff Sergeant Spinelli's unit and his fellow airmen. For his steadfast devotion to duty and heroic achievements involving aerial flight, Staff Sergeant Spinelli was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 20 April 1945. Upon retirement from the USAF, Joe was a construction inspector for the Huntsville Housing Authority and later was the Ditto Landing Marina Manager. Joseph Spinelli died on 6 February 1996 and is buried in the Maple Hill Cemetary in Huntsville.

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