John Titcomb Sprague
Air Force Major General
Bronze Star Recipient
Commander of Waco Army Air Field/James Connally Base
John Titcomb Sprague was born in Staten Island, N.Y., in 1902.
He attended the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, Washington D.C., for a year and was appointed as a flying cadet in March 1924. General Sprague completed primary and advanced flying schools March 14, 1925, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve. Receiving his regular commission as a second lieutenant of Air Corps June 30, 1926, he was assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron at Langley Field, Va. A year later he became a flying instructor at the Primary Flying School, Brooks Field, Texas, and in October 1931, Sprague assumed the same position at the Flying School, Randolph Field, Texas. Entering the Air Corps Technical School at Chanute Field, Ill., in September 1932, he graduated the following June and joined the Second Bomb Group at Langley Field, Va.
Going to the Panama Canal Zone in August 1936, General Sprague assumed command of the 74th Pursuit Squadron at Albrook Field. Two years later, he was appointed director of flight training at Randolph Field. He completed the three-month course at the Air Corps Tactical School Maxwell Field, Alabama during 1939, and then resumed his duties at Randolph Field. In September 1941, he assumed command of Waco Army Air Field. On April 11, 1942, Sprague was the first pilot to land a plane at Waco Army Air Field.
Ordered to the European Theater of Operations In November 1943, General Sprague was acting deputy chief of staff of the Ninth Troop Carrier Command, and the following March he was appointed assistant chief of staff for operations. That July he was named ground forces liaison officer for the Ninth Air Force in that theater. In September 1945 he assumed command of Goodfellow Field, Texas, assuming command of Mather Field, Calif., the following April. Entering Air War College at Maxwell Field, Ala., in August 1946, he graduated the following June.
Returning to Randolph Field, General Sprague was assistant chief of staff for training in the Flying Division of the Air Training Command. Moving back to Waco Air Field(soon thereafter renamed James Connally Air Force Base) in August 1948, General Sprague assumed command of the 3565th Basic Pilot Training Wing. On Nov. 1, 1950, he assumed command of the 3415th Technical Training Wing, Air Training Command, at Lowry Air Force Base, Colorado.
His decorations included the Legion of Merit; Bronze Star Medal, Croix de Guerre with Palm.
Brother Sprague became a Mason at Waco Lodge in 1942. He was instrumental in establishing a positive relationship between the lodge and the Air Field. Hundreds of men under his command received their masonic degrees at Waco Lodge either as a courtesy to lodges in their hometowns or to acquire direct membership with us. As a show of gratitude for the tireless work performed by Waco Lodge during WWII, Brother Sprague presented the lodge with three maple gavels. The wood for the gavels came from propellers at Waco Army Air Field. These gavels were used during a Master Mason’s degree at our Centennial celebration in 1952 and are displayed at the lodge today.
In 1950, Brother Sprague added a great spectacle to the lodge’s annual July 4th party at the Methodist Home for Children. As the kids sat on the lawn in front of the Perkins building enjoying their watermelon and ice cream, a surprise helicopter arrived. Out stepped John Sprague in full uniform. As hundreds of people were gathered, he gave a speech that included the memorable quote, “Our government has tried, and will always try, to exert every fair and generous effort to remove from the future of its children both the cause of war and the necessity of war.” He then joined the others in the revelry but not before taking the photo included here.
On June 1, 1953, Bro. Sprague received an interesting phone call in his role as commander of Lowry Air Force Base. President Dwight Eisenhower was sending word that he had chosen Lowry as his headquarters for the summer. Two months of preparation followed as Sprague oversaw the complete rearrangement of part of his base to accomodate Eisenhower who arrived on August 8, 1953. The Presidential party stayed for a month and returned twice over the next two summers all with Bro. Sprague hosting as commander of what became known nationally as the “Summer White House.” Meetings included such dignitaries as Vice President Richard Nixon, Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson, CIA Director Allen Dulles, FBI Chief and Brother Mason J. Edgar Hoover, Atomic Energy Commissioner Lewis Strauss, and many others.
John Sprague died September 5, 1980 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.