my life in pictures and words

National Museum of the United States Air Force – part duex

The story of Technical Sergeant Sator “Sandy” Sanchez goes like this.

He joined the Army Air Force and began his combat career in the Fall of 1943.

After flying the required 25 combat missions, he stayed on and flew 19 more, voluntarily. In the Summer of 1944 he was sent home for rest before taking an assignment as a gunnery instructor.

By March 15, 1945, at the age of 23, he was back volunteering for a mission where he manned the top gun turret position.

Unfortunately, it became his 66th and last mission. The aircraft was hit and became severely damaged. And while all the members bailed out, Sandy remained in the plane which eventually exploded and crashed.  The B-17 evenutally exploded and crashed.  His body was never found.

Six weeks later the war came to an end.

The photo below is the left vertical tail section of the aircraft that Sanchez flew his last mission upon.  It was discovered in 1993.  A German farmer, near the crash site, was using it as part of his shed.  The 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron recovered the piece for the museum in 1996.

In recognition of his dedication, a B-17 was nicknamed Smilin’ Sandy Sanchez in his honor.

It is the only known B-17 aircraft ever named for an enlisted man.

Tech Sergeant Sator “Sandy” Sanchez’s story is just but one example of the sacrafices made by the Army Air Force personnel during the war.

I don’t know why this one story, of millions, stuck with me that day. At age 23 he had already flew on 66 combat missions. He went down with his plane on that last mission and his body was never recovered.

But Sandy is not forgotten. And his actions, his valor, his dedication, his heroism is forever melded into my heart. And it reminds me of those serving today. Of so many who have lost their lives to this generation’s war. We.Can.Not.Forget.

Thank you for your sacrafice.

(29 August 2009). DUTY ABOVE ALL: TECH. SGT. SATOR “SANDY” SANCHEZ. Retrieved from the National Museum of the US Air Force.

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