About this website

The discovery in 2009 of my father's letters written home during WWII set me off on a "time traveling" journey to learn more about my father's involvement as an original "first pilot" in the 1st Air Commando Group's transport section.

The focus of this website will be on the C-47 transport pilots in this section, which included Jesse Hepler, who later met and married my father's oldest sister Vaso. Her daughters (my cousins Tina and Stefi) are the ones who found my father's WWII letters in Vaso's belongings after she died.

I am sharing 8 mm movies my father took in WWII, his letters written home, an interview with my uncle, photos and other memorabilia. I would love to include information and stories about any of the 1st Air Commandos or anyone who worked with them in China/Burma/India.

Mary Sanichas, Grass Valley CA

8mm film shot by my father John Sanichas

John Sanichas: original member of 1st Air Commando Group transport section, later assigned to 319th Troop Carrier Squadron, CBI. 

Shows C-47 pilot and flight crew buddies horsing around and hanging out—Jacob Sartz, Jesse Hepler, Dick Cole, Buddy Lewis, John Lewis (“Jack” or "Magellan"), Ed Barham (“Snakebite” or "Snake"), Bill Cherry, Orlo Austin (“Red Austin”) and Neil Holm (“Nipper”). 

Footage from the air and of a monastery does not appear to be Mt. Tali. Shot sometime after October 1944. 

more 8mm film shot by my father John Sanichas

This footage appears to be late 1944(?) It shows Burmese people, Chindits, C-47 crew members including Buddy Lewis and Jesse Hepler. A light plane L5-Sentinel (with dog as copilot!). Flight crew swimming around a seaplane with pontoons (Catalina PBY OA-10?). Shot-up Japanese planes on the ground. Construction of Ledo Road in the mountains.

more 8mm film shot by my father John Sanichas

8 mm film in poor condition shot by my father Capt. John C. Sanichas, 1st Air Commando assigned to 319th Troop Carrier Squadron. Shows C-47s flying in formation, a group of Chindits and a group of American airmen and a bomber. Probably late 1944.

Jesse Hepler, Part 1 of interview

In this interview (early 1990s), my uncle Hep talks about the inception of the 1st Air Commando Group, how the glider snatch worked and about the light planes in the unit.

My father's letters, newspaper articles & other information

For more information…