Laverne George (Blondie) Saunders

Recent Address: Aberdeen, SD
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Hometown: Stratford, SD
Date Entered Service: 1924
Service Number: O-17285
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Awards: Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Silver Star, Air Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star; Purple Heart with cluster
Service Schools: 1928 graduate of West Point; Flight training - Kelly Field, TX
Rank Upon Discharge: Brigadier General
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In July 1943, General Saunders began organizing and training the first B-29 wing -- the 58th Bomb Wing (Very Heavy), being assembled under the overall leadership of engineering and development expert Brigadier General Kenneth B. Wolfe. The XX Bomber Command was activated at Salina, Kan., in December with Wolfe in command. The combat groups were under operational control of Saunders' 58th Bomb Wing.The task of developing the B-29, training its crews and basing it in India and China for employment against Japan was complex and enormous. The XB-29 first flew in September 1942; the first B-29 of 58th Bomb Wing landed in India in April 1944; and 68 B-29s under General Saunders flew against the iron and steelworks at Yawata, Japan on June 15, 1944.
Saunders temporarily had charge of the fledgling XX Bomber Command in July 1944 until LeMay arrived in India to take command in August 1944. Saunders was scheduled to return to the United States to take command of a new Boeing B-29 Superfortress wing, but he agreed to stay on in India on LeMay's urging, a decision that almost cost him his life. On 19 September 1944, Saunders was returning to Kharagpur from an inspection trip to Piardoba when his North American B-25 Mitchell bomber crashed. Saunders and the crew chief were the only survivors. Saunders spent much of the next three years in military hospitals and underwent numerous operations, being invalided out of the service as a brigadier general in 1947.
Comments: General Saunders passed away November 16, 1988.

58th Bomb Wing Veterans Index
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