William Stephen Sanders

United States Air Force
27 April 1943 - 30 June 1970
Winthrop, ME
Panel 09W Line 107



USAF Pilot

Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for William Stephen Sanders

17 Nov 2002

I rode in his airplane. We slipped those surly bonds and faced the dangers of combat together. He was a very good pilot, and a Forward Air Controller who did a superb job supporting the men of SOG on the ground. He died way too young, and his body has yet to be recovered. But I shall always remember him as such a good man, a good pilot, a great FAC, and a friend. God bless you Bill Sanders, NAIL 44.

From a friend and comrade-in-arms,
Bill Shelton

01 Jul 2003

Bill Sanders was all that could be desired in a consummate military professional, dependable and daring comade-in-arms, and true friend. He contributed immeasurably to the mission accomplishment of small US-led reconnaissance teams along the Ho Chi Minh Trail as part of SOG's "secret war". Bill ensured that many of those brave Special Forces soldiers made it home, when without his help their survival was doubtful. We will never forget "Bungalow Bill", the missions he flew for and with us, and the good times between those missions. May he rest in peace, his name be honored forever and we meet again up in the wild blue yonder.

From a friend and back-seater,
Mike Taylor

A note from The Virtual Wall

On 30 June 1970, Captain William S. Sanders, pilot, and SFC Albert E. Mosiello, observer, were conducting a visual reconnaissance mission in an OV-10A (tail number 68-3807, call sign "Nail 44"). Due to mission requirements for handheld photography NAIL 44 was flying below the usual minimum of 1500 feet. The aircraft was taken under fire and hit by a 37mm AAA shell in its left side adjacent to the pilot's position. With his pilot unresponsive and the OV-10 no longer airworthy, Mosiello ejected.

The OV-10 had gone down in heavily forested, rugged mountains about 3 miles west of the Lao/South Vietnamese border and 12 miles south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ).

A second FAC in the vicinity heard SFC Mosiello's emergency beeper and made radio contact with the downed observer. He then initiated Search and Rescue operations.

A HH-53C JOLLY GREEN helicopter from the 40th Air Rescue/Recovery Squadron (ARRS) at Udorn RTAFB, Thailand, was immediately dispatched to the area of loss. The HH-53 crew consisted of

  • Captain Leroy C. Schaneberg, pilot;
  • Major John W. Goeglein, co-pilot;
  • SSgt Marvin E. Bell, flight engineer;
  • SSgt Michael F. Dean, pararescueman; and
  • MSgt. Paul L. Jenkins, pararescueman.
As the aircraft hovered over SFC Mosiello's position, it was hit by a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) in the rotor head. The rotor assembly separated from the fuselage, which rolled over and crashed in a fireball on the ground. No emergency beepers were heard from the helicopter's crash site and the FAC could see no signs of survivors.

Although nightfall was approaching, a second effort was staged using a helicopter from Da Nang and A-1E SANDYs for fire suppression. SFC Mosiello was picked up. In his debriefing statement, SFC Mosiello stated a belief that Captain Sanders had been killed by the AAA hit and that he did not see Sanders eject or another parachute deploy.

Search efforts for the Captain Sanders and the HH-53 crew continued through the next day, but no beepers were heard, no contact with the downed aircrew was made, and there were no visual sightings of survivors. SAR efforts were terminated and the six men were listed as Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

In December 1992, a US/Lao team surveyed and excavated the HH-53 crash site. Human remains were recovered and on 7 March 1995 the US government identified the remains as those of the five HH-53 aircrewmen. Efforts to locate the OV-10 crash site were unsuccessful due to the terrain and dense jungle.

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Channing Prothro, former CAP Marine
Last updated 08/10/2009