Seventy-five years ago, he was there. He was a 20-year-old but a kid, flying a P-47 fighter on D-Day.
Tomorrow morning he’ll be aboard a B-17 bomber as it flies over the Evansville riverfront during a special D-Day commemoration.
Eyewitness News’ Brad Byrd talks with WWII veteran Allen Sanderson and Jeff Dieg with the Evansville Wartime Museum.
Brad Byrd: Welcome to In-Depth. 75 years ago, he was there. He was 20 years old but a kid, flying a P-47 fighter on D-Day. Tomorrow morning he’ll be aboard a B-17 bomber as it flies over the Evansville riverfront during a special D-Day commemoration. This pilot will look down at the LST-325.
Joining us tonight are Allen Sanderson, World War 2 veteran and Jeff Dieg of the Evansville wartime museum. And Allen and Jeff thank you for being here tonight. This is a week when we are looking back and Allen 75 years ago, tomorrow, what were you doing that day?
Allen Sanderson: Well, like most good pilots, we were out flying, and we didn’t know where we were going. We were flying over southern France.
Brad Byrd: And you learned that day about D-Day? Tell me about that.
Allen Sanderson: We came back from our mission and found out the invasion had started, and it was going – that was our first knowledge of it. But our targets were to hit the Germans behind as they receded from where D-Day was going on, on the beach. And then our target was to keep them from retreating.
Brad Byrd: But you really didn’t know the nature of this though. When you realized it, the scope of what was happening, what went through your mind and in your heart? Allen tell me about that day and what you did leading up to it. How much training.
Allen Sanderson: Well, the first thing was hey, this sounds good, it might the start of the end. And that’s the way we looked at it then. If this goes, it’ll be ok.
Brad Byrd: And Jeff, the B-17 that has been in Evansville the past few days – what will be happening tomorrow morning as we lead up to this commemoration?
Jeff Dieg: The B-17 is going to be flying over at the beginning of the ceremony on the LST about 9 o’clock, 9:04 if we time things right. So, there’ll be a radio man and a spotter in the plane who are in touch with each other to time that at the precise moment when the WWII bomber flies over the WWII LST – each with a WWII veteran onboard.
Brad Byrd: And Allen I’m very honored to be on this flight with you but you were on the B-17 on Monday – what’d you think about that? What struck you about that?
Allen Sanderson: Most interesting, a new experiment I’ll tell you, a lot louder than the P-47, made a lot of noise – good airplane – I wouldn’t want to be on one of those like the guys flying out of England into Germany for 8 or 10 hours at a time. But I’ll take the 47.
Brad Byrd: Well, Jeff this man right here flew 118 missions, and you had a close call, I know, or maybe two, during those missions Allen. But he was entered the congressional record – tell me about that.
Jeff Dieg: Congressman Bucshon, unbeknownst to Allen, there was a congressional record that’s now on file with the Congress that talks about the giving attitude that Allen has had ever since he contributed to the war effort, like a lot of veterans did, but since then he hadn’t stopped. He’s so interested in education and history and spreading the knowledge so people don’t forget a lot of things that happened. And he’s a very giving person to his church, so he continues to give since he was in the war.
Brad Byrd: And Allen you faced fear head on in WWII. So many Americans did, it was a very dangerous time in this world. You like to talk to young people especially about this, and why is that? Why’s that so important?
Allen Sanderson: For two reasons. 1. I don’t think young people understand what war is all about. Or what their parents and all their relatives did, even if they weren’t soldiers, they still lived the same as the war because the war was important. That was the main thing on our mind and anything we could do to help – they appreciated.
Brad Byrd: And Jeff, the contribution, we’re not really celebrating war, but the contribution Evansville made to the war effort is unparalleled on so many fronts. And that’s one of the reasons why the historical part of this is so very important. Facing fear Allen, how did you do that? Because I know you had a couple of close calls, but when you got into that aircraft at 20 yrs. old, you didn’t have much time to train for it.
Allen Sanderson: Didn’t have much time, but that didn’t matter.
Brad Byrd: And why is that?
Allen Sanderson: You had to do what you had to do, and you just did it.
Brad Byrd: Well, Allen you’re a good man and a plain-spoken man, and that’s refreshing in this day and age, and we appreciate your service. It’ll be an honor to be in the same fuselage as you as we fly on the B-17.
Allen Sanderson: It’ll be an honor to represent all the people who aren’t here too.
Brad Byrd: Allen, WWII pilot, and Jeff Dieg, Evansville Wartime Museum, thank you for being here tonight. See you tomorrow morning.
(This story was originally published on June 5, 2019)