Mary Sanichas, Grass Valley CA
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.
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.
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.
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 aunt Vaso with Jesse Hepler and Bill Cherry at a 1st Air Commandos reunion. Bill Cherry was the head of the 1st Air Commando transport section. He was also the pilot who successfully crash landed and survived for 3 weeks in a raft with Eddie Rickenbacker and others. Patt Meara said that after spending all that time in "the deep" Bill Cherry was the most "catastrophe-prepared" individual you have ever met. Read this fascinating story of survival at https://www.historynet.com/eddie-rickenbacker-and-six-other-people-survive-a-b-17-crash-and-three-weeks-lost-in-the-pacific-ocean.htm
Jacob Sartz, second in command, shown here with Grace Kelly on the October 9, 1944 cover of Life
from The San Diego Union, Sunday, February 27, 1994, by Hugh Crumpler
"Cherry’s second in command was Jacob B. Sartz, one of the storied transport pilots in the early days of China-India-Burma theater.
Sartz was a hero and an Air Corps legend from his work as a C-47 pilot in the early days of transport flights between India and China. He had once knocked out a porthole window of a C-47 and shot down a pursuing Japanese plane with a tommy gun.
Sartz also was generally considered to be the sartorial model for the pilots. His style-setting uniform was a collapsed Air Corps hat, Indian-made bush shirt and GI khakis with at least one pant-leg tucked into a pair of non-issue mosquito boots.
The uniform was completed with a .45 automatic in a shoulder holster and a Thompson sub-machine gun tucked in the crook of one elbow. Aloft or aground, the proper transport pilot smoked a fat cigar."
My uncle, C-47 transport pilot Jesse Hepler, continued to smoke a cigar for the rest of his life (but in the garage, not the house!)
Lowell Thomas, 1951
R.D. Van Wagner
also available as pdf
Dennis R. Okerstrom
William T. Y'Blood
Robert T. Smith
Along with dozens of photographs,Tale of a Tiger is the annotated diary of AVG Flying Tiger pilot Robert T. Smith. “R.T.,” as he was known, later headed the Bomber Section of the 1st Air Commando Group.
400-page transcript of interview with Phillip Cochran
Interview conducted by the Air Force Historical Research Center in 1978
Article in Defense Media Network written by Dwight Jon Zimmerman, first published in 2004
summarizing the story of 1st Air Commando Group
This article describes the inception of Project 9 through Operation Thursday by the 1st Air Commando Group. It was first published by Air Force Magazine in 2009 and is reprinted on the website of the National World War Ii Glider Pilots Association.
Bill Cherry miraculously crash landed in the Pacific and survived with other men in 3 rafts for 24 days. The famous passenger aboard his plane was Eddie Rickenbacker, a racecar driver and top World War I flying ace.
2008 article by Thomas Fleming https://www.americanheritage.com/lost-sea-24-days
Rivetting article by Billy A. Rhea https://www.historynet.com/eddie-rickenbacker-and-six-other-people-survive-a-b-17-crash-and-three-weeks-lost-in-the-pacific-ocean.htm
At 103, Dick Cole, the last living 1st Air Commando Group transport pilot, talks about his time with the 1st Air Commandos
Dennis Okerstrom talks about his book “Project 9: Birth of the Air Commandos in World War II.” Three veterans, Bill Cartwright, Dick Cole, Patt Meara, answer questions from the audience.
“The 1st Air Commando Group, Project 9: ‘To Hell with the Paperwork’” by Brad Michaelson
Film taken by 1st Air Commander fighter/bomber pilot "Tadpole" Smith. He is seen in front of his airplane "Barbie" (back row, center) at :20 to :30. Mike Pitts, the son of Younger “Sonny” A. Pitts Jr., has identified his dad at 4:53 to 5:00. Sonny was in the Fighter Section.
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