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Home Town Stratford, South Dakota
Last Address Aberdeen, South Dakota
Date of Passing Nov 16, 1988
Location of Interment Sacred Heart Cemetery - Aberdeen, South Dakota
Wall/Plot Coordinates Not Specified
Last Known Activity Born in Stratford, S.D., in 1903, Saunders graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1924 and the U.S. Military Academy in 1928. It was there that his coal-black hair inspired his nickname. An All-America tackle at West Point, He was the football coach there from 1931 through 1939.
He began fighting as a pilot in WWII at Hickam Field the day it and Pearl Harbor were attacked by the Japanese. Later, he fought them at Midway, in the Solomons and on Guadalcanal. In 1944 he conducted the first land-based air attack on Japan.
On an administrative flight shortly before returning to the US in Sep 1944, his B-25 crashed. Gen. Curtis LeMay helped move an engine off Saunders' crushed ankle. He spent the next 2 1/2 years in the hospital and was medically retired Feb 28, 1947.
(adapted from his USAF bio, see 2nd link below)
His son, 2nd Lt. Maurice Melvin Saunders, USAF, was killed in the crash of his A-26 bomber in TN on Jan 16, 1954.
His Navy Cross citation:
Awarded for actions during WWII
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Brigadier General [then Colonel] Laverne George Saunders, United States Army Air Forces, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service as Commanding Officer of the 11th Bombardment Group (H), THIRTEENTH Air Force, U.S. Army Air Forces, in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands on 18 November 1942. Brigadier General Saunders led his group of bombers in a daring daylight raid on enemy shipping in the face of severe anti-aircraft and enemy fighter opposition in the Buin-Tonolei area of the Solomon Islands. At least two 1,000-pound bomb hits were scored on enemy vessels and 12 enemy aircraft were destroyed. After his own airplane was badly damaged and it became necessary to land his plane in enemy territory, he skillfully accomplished a water landing near shore thereby permitting the remaining members of his crew to reach safety. Brigadier General Saunders' outstanding courage, daring airmanship and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Armed Service.
General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 313 (April 1943)
Hickam Field, Terr. of Hawaii; Luganville Airfield, Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides (now Vanuatu)
11th Bombardment Group, Heavy Details
11th Bombardment Group Heavy (H) "The Grey Geese"
They were there on that infamous day, Sunday, December 7, 1941. They were around on September 2, 1945 when the Japanese surrendered. They are still here today only not as a combat unit. The 11th Bombardment Group (H) was organized and activated at Hickam Field, Territory of Hawaii, on February 1, 1940 as part of the 18th Wing of the Hawaiian Air Force. It included Headquarters, Headquarters Sq., 14th Bombardment Sq., 26th Bombardment Sq., 42nd Bombardment Sq. and the 50th Reconnaissance Sq. In February of 1942 it was assigned to the 7th Air. It's planes consisted of B-18 Bolos, B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberators.
Boeing B-17E "Typhoon McGoon II" (S/N 41-9211) of the 11th Bomb Group, 98th Bomb Squadron, taken in January 1943 in New Caledonia. Note the antennas mounted above the nose plexiglass used for radar tracking
The B-24 Liberty Belle Crew, 42nd Bomb Squadron, 11th Bomb Group (H), 7th Air Force 11th Bomb Group (H) - 42nd Bomb Squadron, April 1945 - Jan 1946.
"Thar She Blows"
42nd Bomb Squadron, 11th Bomb Group, 7th Air Force.
98th Bomb Squadron, 11th Bomb Group, 7th Air Force.
Photo taken on Guam,Marianas Islands on May 4,1945.
98th Bomb Squadron, 11th Bomb Group, 7th Air Force.On YYThe photo of the nose art of the �??Wishful Thinkin�??.�?? That is my father�??s B-24M Liberator, S/N 44-41945, when he was on Guam and Okinawa in 1945 with the 431st Bomb Squadron. My father, 2LT Thomas Victor �??Vic�?? Hart, was the co-pilot of a B-24 crew that had been together since training at Muroc Army Airfield in California in late-1944. I literally grew up with that photo (undoubtedly the first topless woman I ever saw!) as I was born two months before my father came home from the Pacific. Thanks for including the photo maybe you know a little more about it now.