Summary

MAJOR GEN HOMER L SANDERS . ("Tex" to senior officers). He studied at Rice Institute 1922-1926 and graduated from the Air Corps Advanced Flying School in 19

Conflict Period:
World War II 1
Birth:
24 Jul 1904 1
Marshall, Texas 1
Death:
19 May 1998 1
Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, New Mexico 1
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Full Name:
Homer Leroy Sanders 1
Birth:
24 Jul 1904 1
Marshall, Texas 1
Death:
19 May 1998 1
Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, New Mexico 1
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Marriage:
Frances Stanfill 1

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Stories

BATTLE OF ASIA: The Dragons

Monday, Mar. 08, 1943

Time Magazine

Life was getting dull for the fighter boys in Assam. They had been stationed there since last summer to protect the air supply line to China. Aside from easy strafing missions against locomotives and bridges in Burma, there was not much to do except play badminton, lounge on big airy porches in the old stilted tea planters' houses, and stare out across the endless sultry tea fields. The enlisted men took to teaching Assamese kids American. They all wished the Japs would attack. Their C.O., Colonel Homer Leroy Sanders, had said: "If the Japs come over, all they will need is a one-way ticket." One day last week the bungalow where Homer Sanders has his headquarters was quiet except for the routine chatter of typewriters. Suddenly a sergeant rushed upstairs shouting: "Red alert!" Men clattered downstairs. Telephones jangled. The radio in the control room crackled. Well camouflaged, lazy-looking spots became busy, alert shacks, anti-aircraft pits, airplanes. On the flanks of planes could be seen the pilots' emblem-a droopy-tailed dragon with the motto: "Our Assam Draggin'." To each fighter strip by nickname went orders: "Gin Fizz take off. ... Bottoms Up take off. . . . What's Cooking take off. . . ." In the air the Fighting Dragons met 18 Jap bombers, 25 fighters. They shot down nine positives, 20 probables. They themselves all came home safely, and for a few hours life did not seem quite so dull to the fighter boys in Assam.

Ex-CBI Roundup

October 1977 Issue

By Major Robert A. McClung

51st FIGHTER GROUP America's First U. S. Fighter Group in India Around Karachi, India, the country was gray and flat, studded with low lying sage-brush that made way for the Great Sind Desert which ran down to the sea. It was a dusty, lonely place and the incalculable vastness of the desert was everywhere, stretching with barren savagery west into the Arabian Sea and east into India. To the north, the ranging sands of the desert were broken by jutting stratas of sandstone, heaved into hog-backed ridges that looked like armies of stone marching towards the sea. At Karachi was one vestige of Western civilization. A huge, black dirigible hanger stood towering above the heat haze, keeping an endless vigil for a ship that would never come in. The ill-fated R-101 British dirigible, destined for Karachi, had crashed and burned in France on its maiden voyage to India. Since then, the great hanger stood empty and useless with nothing but wind and "sand to fill its great cavern. Early in the spring of 1942, a group of men came to camp within its shelter. The time then was the early days of World War II. In the chaos of conflict, the 51st Fighter Group of the United States Army Air Corps became the first American fighter group to reach India after the initial Japanese attacks on the United States and its possessions. An unexpected chain of events had caused them to land in India. Colonel Homer L. Sanders was a tall, lean, ardent man in whom the forces of energy were never still. When the United States became involved in the war, Sanders clamored, begged and pleaded with the higher command to send him and his 51st Fighter Group overseas. The wish was granted and in later years of foreign service, the enlisted men of the group overseas who were enduring particularly difficult times would sometimes say with sarcastic delight, "We went to hell with Homer L." The 51st Fighter Group and every man in it had been volunteered to take up the battle with the Japanese. It was accepted on January 12, 1942. As the fog dissipated from San Francisco Bay, the men sailed out to sea aboard the S. S. Coolidge with lock, stock and barrel primed for war. The route of travel changed after they reached Melbourne, Australia. Originally the pilots were to fly their fighter planes from Melbourne to Brisbane and then to Darwin. From there they were to fly across the Timor Sea to the island of Timor, hop to Bali and finally to Java. Captain Grant Mahoney led a flight of 12 P-40s of the 35th Fighter Group across that route successfully and those ships were destined to be the only reenforce-ments ever to each Java. The ground personnel of the 51st and a few remaining men of the 35th Group were to proceed by boat to Java, but under the new plan of strategy a convoy of ships was formed in Melbourne to carry all of the personnel and equipment to Fremantle on the southwest coast of Australia. The convoy leaving Melbourne consisted of three troop transports, a cruiser which was the U.S.S. Phoenix, and two destroyers. On the transports the Holbrook carried the 25th, 26th and Headquarters and Headquarters Squadrons of the 51st Fighter Group. Also on board was part of the 51st Service Group. The Duntroon, a twin-screw motor vessel formerly used as an interisland steamer, carried the 16th Squadron of the 51st Group; Headquarters Squadron of the 35th Group; and the 35th Interceptor Squadron. The third troop carrier in the convoy was a Dutch interisland vessel, the Katoomba, which carried the remainder of the 51st Service Group-three squadrons of men. When the convoy steamed into the harbor at Fremantle, the men were granted shore leave. The city of Perth was only 10 miles distant from the harbor and in Perth, the officers and enlisted men received the same warm welcome as they had in Melbourne. At midnight on the last evening ashore the streets of Perth were blocked off and the P-40 fighter planes, which had been flown across Australia from Melbourne, were towed through the city and down the last 10 miles to the docks. During the night the planes were loaded aboard the aircraft carrier, Langley, and on the following morning the convoy of ships put out to sea. The date was February 21,1942, and as they departed Australia the officers and enlisted men of the 51st Fighter Group had little knowledge of their destination. In the three months previous to that time the Japanese had thrust in all directions with unhampered fury. December of 1941 saw the last foothold in the Philippines, Davao on the island of Mindanao, fall in defeat. In January the Japanese sent their advancing hordes into New Guinea, New Britain and New Ireland. On January 10, Northern Borneo and the Celebes were attacked and taken; Southern Borneo and the island of Sumatra fell by February 1. The island of Timor followed on February 20, and Bali on the 24th. Nothing was left uncaptured in the island group north of Australia except Java which was then encircled. The convoy sailed toward that inferno of war north of Australia, and after they were at sea the men of the Fighter Group learned they were headed for Java. The aircraft carrier, Langley; the S. S. Seawitch, a cargo vessel; the Holbrook; the Duntroon; the Dutch Island steamer, Katoomba; the cruiser Phoenix and two destroyers proceeded with full speed ahead to carry aid to the intrepid forces of the little Dutch Army and the few remaining elements of the United States Air Corps, which were making a desperate last stand on Java. At noon on the fourth day at sea, the convoy was north of the Coco Islands about two days from Java. On that day the commander of the convoy decided that it was too risky to try to get troops into Java because the battle was not going well and the island might be captured at any time. The convoy was disbanded. The Langley and the Seawitch were to attempt to land fighter planes on the island to help relieve the critical situation, and the rest of the ships were to turn away and seek a safe port. On the following day, February 25, while Langley was attempting to reach Tjilatjap, a Japanese reconnaissance plane spotted the ship and directed dive bombers to attack. The aircraft carrier was sunk. In another attack, the S. S. Seawitch was badly damaged. Survivors of the Langley were picked up by a U. S. oiler, the Pecos. It was sunk a day later while transferring the survivors over to two U. S. destroyers, which were on the-lee side of the Christmas Islands. Only a few survivors of the Pecos and Langley were found and taken to Australia. The Seawitch, listing heavily, managed to reach Melbourne thirty days later. On February 28 the last two defended cities, Batavia and Soerabaja on the north side of Java, were captured. From the southern port of Tjilatjap, a few Dutch ships loaded with refugees and Dutch Army personnel fled for Australia. Japanese bombers were then roaring from Bali to Tjilatjap and Sumatra. Java was doomed. Major General Brereton moved his air headquarters from the Philippines to Java, along with the remnants of the famous 19th Bombardment Group. They held out on Java until the last hour when defeat or capture was inevitable. In battle scarred B-17 bombers they escaped to Colombo, Ceylon, landing there on March 6. Meanwhile the three troop ships, Holbrook, Duntroon and Katoomba, had arrived in Ceylon. The harbor of Colombo was crowded with 195 vessels that had come there in escape from Singapore, the Philippines and Java. Parts of them were remnants of the Dutch navy and vessels of the British Far Eastern Fleet. In that congested harbor the three ships carrying the 51st Fighter Group, remained one day for fueling and then sailed for India. Colonel Sanders and the captain of the Duntroon had conferred many long hours. Their decision had been to proceed to a port safe enough to land the group where they could become useful and active. Their decision was timely. Had they remained, they would have seen the bellies of Japanese bombers which sank most of the ships remaining in the harbor a few days later. The Duntroon reached Karachi, India, on the night of March 11, 1942. The Holbrook and the Katoomba reached the same port on the following day. There the 51st Fighter Group disembarked, completing a journey of fifty-nine days at sea. Most of the group's equipment and airplanes went down with the Langley as did many pilots, crew chiefs and armorers. Pouring out on the docks at Karachi, the men lined up and marched through the city and out to the windswept hanger in the Great Sind Desert. The desert was vast and quiet. The heat rose off with stifling intense waves. The enlisted men placed their beds in the shelter of the R-101 hanger while the officers borrowed British desert tents and set up a camp on the outside. They lacked equipment and supplies but they got word to the United States War Department that they were still alive and awaiting further orders. Thus began the existence of the First American Fighter Group in India. This group of men were destined to be - along with remnants of the Flying Tigers - the beginning of the 14th Air Force in China and the Initial Security Force which established and maintained the air supply line over "the Hump" from India to China. "Know that our time will come to rise on the morning wind, and if we live we shall come back again and if we die we shall go on fighting and our fame shall resound beyond the world.

LT. GEN. HOMER L SANDERS ("Tex" to senior officers). He studied at Rice Institute 1922-1926 and graduated from the Air Corps Advanced Flying School in 1928, Tactical School in 1940 and National War College in 1947. He was commissioned a 2nd Lt. of Air Corps in 1929. He was named Commanding General of the 9th Air Force on March 27 1946. Assigned to the ETO in 1943 became commander of the 100th Fighter Wing in 1944. En route to the Pacific Theater when Japan surrendered. He went on to be deputy Commanding General of the 14th Air Force in 1947; Vice Commander of the Tactical Air Forces 1950 through 1952; named Major General in 1952; Deputy Chief of Staff operations Tactical Air Force 1951-54; Commander of Northern Air Forces at Norway 1954-1957; Vice Commander of Continental Air Command 1957-1959; retired 1959. His Decorations were Legion of Merit with Oak Cluster, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, Bronze Star medal (U.S.). Legion of Honor and Croix de Guerre (France). Commander with Crown, Order of Adolph of Nassau (Luxembourg). General Sanders in the cockpit of his Thunderbolt. General Weyland at an informal gathering with General Sanders, then Commanding General of the 100th Wing, the XIX TAC staff, and CO's of the TAC fighter groups. Generals Sanders, Royce and Weyland with Lord Trenchard A meeting, less than a month before the invasion, of (from left to right) Brig. Gen. Sanders, CG of the 100th Fighter Wing; Maj. Gen. Royce, then Deputy Chief of Staff for the Ninth Air Force; Lord Trenchard, Marshall of the RAF; Maj. (then Brigadier) Gen. Weyland, CG of the XIX General Patton, Commanding General of Third U. S. Army, Attends a XIX Tactical Air Command air briefing. Officers in Front Row are: (reading from left to right) Brigadier General Homer L. Sanders, Commanding General, 100th Fighter wing: General Patton: and Major General O. P. Weyland, Commanding General, XIX Tactical Air Command. Photo of General Weyland's party in Luxembourg City. From left to right: General Weyland, Colonel Browne, General Patton, Commanding General of the Third U.S. Army Maj. Gen. O.P. Weyland meets with Lt. Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg, Commanding General of the Ninth Air Force, Brig. Gen. Schlatter, SHAEF Air Officer, and his staff, on 17 January 1945 as the air and ground forces methodically ground up the Ardennes salient. Reading left around the table from General Weyland (center, foreground, at head of table) those present are: General Schlatter, Brig. Gen. Homer L. Sanders, Commanding General of the 100th Fighter Wing, Colonel Ray J. Stecker, C. O. of the 365th Fighter Group, Colonel Harry French, C. O. of the Tactical Control Group, Colonel Edwin S. Chickering, C. O. of the 367th Fighter Group, Colonel Frank S. Perego, C. O. of the 368th Fighter Group, Lt. Col. Wayne O'Hern, acting XIX TAC Signal Officer, Colonel Marshall Cloke, acting C. O. of the 354th Fighter Group, Colonel Russell T. Berg, C. O. of the 10th Photo Recce group, Colonel Garett Jackson, C. O. of the 405th Fighter Group, Major Kraft, senior controller of the Fighter Control Group, Captain Russell Glasser, C. O. of the 425th Night Fighter Squadron, Colonel Jack T. Bradley, acting C. O. of the 362nd Fighter Group, Colonel Leslie R. Bratton, acting C. O. of the 406th Fighter Group, Colonel Junius W. Dennison, C. O. of the 361st Fighter Group, Colonel James Thompson, Deputy Chief of Staff, Colonel James Ferguson, AC of S, A-3, Colonel Roger Browne, Chief of Staff, and General Vandenberg. Seated at the table in rear (from left to right): Colonel Charles H. Hallett, AC of S, A-2, Colonel Greene, C. O. 719th A.D.G. and Lt Col. Foltz, AC of S, A-4.

Article from CBI Roundup Vol. I No.30 Reg.No.L5015 Delhi, Thursday April 8, 1943 Sanders Praises Assam Pilots; Jap Planes Good For Joy Ride Col. Homer L. Sanders, guiding genius of an Assam fighter group which has been a painful thorn in the side of the Jap, stopped off long enough in New Delhi en route home to Houston, Texas, for an encouraging press conference. When the colonel left the room, reporters re-read their hieroglyphic notes with satisfaction. He had, as one of them expressed it, "said a mouthful," with no attempt to parry questions. Sanders' pilots in Assam dealt out death and destruction to the Jap in Burma in a measure overwhelming to slight American losses. Sanders revealed that since the group first mustered full strength last October, it had shot down 21 confirmed enemy planes, had a probable list amounting to 25 and had definitely damaged 13. The skimpy Jap side of the ledger was one American officer killed and two planes lost. Principal mission of Sanders' unit was to protect planes supplying China. This they accomplished by combat actions of offensive nature, as well as those of defense. "Not to defend, but to fight is my credo," thundered Sanders. The colonel was not disparaging about the Jap pilot, "You can't question his courage," he remarked. "He is always willing to engage in a fight. But, unfortunately for him, his plane is only good enough for a nice Sunday afternoon ride. The controls tighten up at top speed. He has no armor plate. No self-sealing gas tanks. The odds are against him from the start." Sanders scanned the room of correspondents for Bill Fisher, of Time magazine. Fisher was absent. The colonel revealed jokingly that his Assam fighter pilots want a word with Fisher, who wrote a piece about how, not having dangerous tasks at the time, the lads spent a couple of weeks ho-humming through routine strafing missions. "Hell, strafing is the most dangerous job of all to perform," he grimaced. Sanders amplified the story of the pilot rescued last week by a trainer plane and P-40 defenders near a Jap headquarters. He said: "The pilot never realized until near the end of the episode that he was near enemy headquarters. He thought that the river was one near his own base. He wandered into the town, but nothing happened. The Jap must have thought him a trap. In this village, he saw holes 20 feet deep, attesting to the effectiveness of our bombing missions there. Finally, he grew suspicious and took his .45 out of its holster, watched warily and awaited the rescue plane. "After wards I asked my A-2, a former Hollywood scenario writer, whether he would bang out a script on the episode. 'No,' he told me, 'no one would believe it.'"

Obituary for Sanders Homer LeRoy Sanders, Major General, USAF (retired), born in Marshall, Texas, July 25, 1904, passed away May 19, 1998 in Albuquerque. Preceded in death by wife, Frances Sanders; two sons, Scott Sanders and Edward B. Sanders; and grandson, Thomas Alexander. He is survived by wife, Jean F. Sanders; daughters, Connie Alexander and Joyce Lang; step-children, Mary Lou Wilkerson, John M. Bristol, and Edmund G. Bristol; 13 grandchildren. He was currently a member of the Order of Daedalians, Albuquerque Country Club and Air Force Association. Services will be held Friday, May 22, at Kirtland Air Force Base East Chapel, 9:30 a.m. Interment will follow at 12:30 p.m. at Santa Fe National Cemetery with military honors. Memorials may be made to All Faiths Receiving Home, P.O. Box 6573, 87197. Strong-Thorne Mortuary, 1100 Coal Ave Se, in charge of arrangements. Sanders, Homer L, b. 07/25/1904, d. 05/19/1998, US Air Force, MAJ GEN, Res: Albuquerque, NM, Plot: X 0 318, bur. 05/22/1998

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