Lt. James H. Sanders, Pilot
Survived by his daughter Sondra Kay Sanders Pauley
On the eve of World War II, James Hedrick Sanders was a teenager working in a filling station. Following in the footsteps of his father, who served in World War I, James enlisted in the Second World War, learned to fly, and served valiantly as the pilot of the
Rum Boogie crew.
His service, however, got off to a shaky start. During training in Walla Walla, Washington, on the morning of September 25th, Lt. Sanders was piloting the B17 #E41-9088, Rum Boogie. Sensing things were not right, he aborted his take-off. The plane careened into a ditch. No one was hurt, but since the plane was totaled, an investigation was in order. Everyone was
ordered into Colonel Old's office. The purpose of the investigation was to determine if there had been negligence on the part of the pilot. Evidently the meeting became quite heated for the term "court-martial" was used a few times. But Lt. Sanders remained calm and unruffled, and Colonel Old's final response was, "any man that could come directly here from that wreck, be raked over the coals like we've been doing and still remain calm, polite, and in control of himself should be OK in combat. Case closed." Some forty years later, Sgt. Dick Postier, one of Sanders' waist gunners, provided the 96th Archives with an actual copy of this accident report. The report treated the matter as pure accident. No blame anywhere.
I believe Lt. Sanders was an excellent pilot: he got my dad and the rest of the crew through 25 missions at a time when bomber casualties were high and few crews were able to reach that final number. His sense of duty, both to his family and to his country, are evident in the V-Mail (below) that he sent home right after the mission to Emden, Germany. During that mission, both the Rum Boogie bombardier and ball turret gunner were hit by flak. And the plane in the #2 slot in the lead squadron was attacked and exploded at 4,000 feet killing all aboard. Yet Lt. Sanders' writing reflects a calmness that I doubt few of us would be able to maintain.
Sanders came home after the war and went to work as a youthful airline pilot. By the age of 26, he was routinely co-piloting airliners for TWA to exotic places like Cairo, Madrid, Geneva, and Paris.
Trans World Airlines' Flight 529 out of Boston usually made stops at New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles before arriving in San Francisco. But on September 1, 1961, one of the aging Constellations assigned to this route made it only halfway before its flight ended in disaster. Piloting the airliner was Captain James H. Sanders, age 40, a brave Texan, a World War II veteran from Abilene who had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Oak Leaf Clusters. The plane was the "Star of Dublin," a Lockheed Constellation L-049 propliner.
The following is from the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia
on9/3/61: "At 2:05 a.m., four minutes after takeoff from
Midway Airport in Chicago, something went seriously wrong.
An amateur radio operator, who tuned into the aircraft's
frequency just before the crash, said the pilot [Sanders]
reported: 'I got an electrical fire. What should I do?'
'Circle or set down,' replied the control tower.
'I can't circle, it's too hot,' was the pilot's reply. Then there was
silence, the amateur radio operator was quoted as saying."
The airliner crashed killing all 73 passengers and 5 crew on board. It was, at the time, the deadliest single plane disaster in U.S. history. The accident was investigated by the Civil Aeronautics Board, which concluded its probable cause was the loss of the 5/16 inch bolt vital to the control of the aircraft. The bolt fell out of the elevator control mechanism during the climb from Chicago, resulting in a violently abrupt pitch up followed by a stall. The plane veered north from its southwest heading as Captain Sanders fought to recover from the stall. But it fell to the earth, skidded in flames, and disintegrated, leaving debris over an area 200 feet wide and a half mile long across a field of corn and soybeans. In a matter of moments, seventy-eight hearts had stopped beating. It was a tragic loss of life.
Below is a link to a complete news article of the crash. It is a seven page article with many details and a full casualty list:
A few years ago, I was scrolling through the above site and came across the following in the Comments Section from Janet B. Dean, posted on October 17, 2012. This was news I had not heard before:
"I've been reading the comments from family members who lost loved ones in this tragedy. Clearly this disaster affected many. My father was a TWA Captain/Pilot. He was supposed to have been at the helm of this doomed plane as it took off out of Midway Airport, but due to a series of events he was not on that plane. My father had fallen a few weeks earlier and received a gash on his head, leaving him with a large bandage around his head. When he was cleared by the flight physician to return to active duty, the head of the flight deck decided my father's appearance might not instill confidence in passengers, so assigned him to a cargo flight instead. My father was flying a cargo flight when he heard about the disaster. It would have been his death if not for his stupid action which caused him to fall - he felt such guilt, always."
I also discovered a Facebook Group for relatives and friends of the passengers on Flight 529. The creator of the page, Cari Aiken created the page as a place to "share your memories and honor those we lost."
The link for the page is: https://www.facebook.com/groups/241582219245634/
I posted the following on the Flight 529 page to honor Captain Sanders: "The Rum Boogie crew flew 25 missions and never crashed or were shot down, which was almost unheard of. Captain Sanders was an amazing pilot."
The following link is for the 1961 television news broadcast out of Chicago about the crash:
James and Lillian - 1942
Photo Gallery Courtesy of Sanders Family
Awarded Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, and 3 Oak Leaf Clusters
Burial: Green Hills Memorial Park, Rancho Palos Verdes, Los Angeles County, California
James Carroll Sanders
Son of Pilot James Hedrick Sanders
Birth: Nov. 28, 1942, Abilene, Texas
Death: Dec. 27, 2007, Arlington, Texas
James Carroll Sanders, the son of James Hedrick and
Lillian Catherine Hoffman Sanders, came from a
strong tradition of military service. His grandfather,
James Henry Sanders, served in WWI. His father,
James Hedrick Sanders (chronicled above) served in WWII. And James Carroll Sanders bravely followed in their footsteps by serving in Vietnam.
He was born at Abilene, Texas and died at Arlington,
Texas. Memorial services and burial were held on
January 4, 2008. He is survived by his beloved wife
of 40 years, Sandra Kay Kissinger Sanders, and by
his cherished daughter, Jamie Kay.
Burial at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery; Dallas, Texas