Lt. Col. Hector Santa Anna was with the Army Air Corps/USAF and entered service on July 1942. The following is an excerpt from the 2nd edition of ‘Arizona’s Hispanic Flyboys,’ by Rudy Villarreal. It is available at Bullion Plaza Museum and through Amazon.com.
“Author Rudolph C. Villarreal has chronicled some of the most interesting WWII aviators, who all just happen to be Hispanic and from Arizona. In his book “Arizona Hispanic Flyboys 1941-1945″, he gives us a series of short bios on some real American heroes. His book not only preserves a slice of WWII history with never before told tales but he also honors the Hispanic culture of Arizona with his tributes to these old warriors.” Rev. Bill Macdonald Jr.
Hector is a graduate of Miami High School class of 1940. Accepted as an aviation cadet in the summer of 1942, he began a yearlong period of pilot training at various army airfields in Texas.
Preflight school was at Kelly Field, Texas where he learned the rudiments of flight theory as well as the customs and traditions of military life. His first introduction to actual flying was during primary flight school at Corsicana, Texas. There he trained on the PT-19, and after logging twelve and a half hours of flight time, completed his first solo flight. The next phase, basic flight school, was at Majors Field near Greenville, Texas, where he trained on the Vultee BT-13. The final phase, advanced flight school, was at Brooks Field at San Antonio, Texas where he flew the AT-6 Texan. There, in July 1943, he received his silver pilot wings and the gold bars of second lieutenant.
Selected for flight instructor training, Lt. Santa Anna was sent to school at Randolph Field, Texas, the “West Point of the Air.” Upon completion he was assigned as a flight instructor for Central and South American military officers and cadets attending basic flight training at Waco Army Air Field, Texas. Volunteering for combat duty in August 1944, he was sent to Alexandria, Louisiana, for B-17 combat crew training. There he learned the necessary skills together with the crew-members that would accompany him into combat.
Assigned to the European Theater, he and his crew arrived in England in late October 1944 after having flown a new B-17G from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Valley, Wales via Gander, Newfoundland and Rekjavic, Iceland. He and his crew were assigned to the 486th Bomb Group, 3rd Bomb Wing, of the 8th Air Force, stationed at Sudbury, Suffolk County, about 50 miles NE of London.
From November 16, 1944 to March 3, 1945, Lt. Santa Anna flew as aircraft commander on 34 (plus one as observer) combat missions to targets in Germany. His radio operator, Sergeant Harry G. Johnson from Joplin, Missouri, kept a diary where he recorded certain data and events for each mission. Two missions, numbers 9 and 31, are printed here from this diary.
Mission # 9 December 24, 1944
Airfield at Aschaffenburg, Germany
Ship # 937
Bomb Load 14-250 lbs.
4-500 lbs. Incendiaries
Bomb Altitude 22,000 feet
Briefing Officer told us that today saw the greatest air fleet ever assembled. Air Force put up 2000 heavy bombers,besides P- 51s, P-47s and B-26s from Air Force. Perfect day for bombing. Never saw so many airplanes in my life.Beautiful sight to see all the formations. Lost #2 engine by an oil leak. Lucky it didn’t catch fire. Length of mission-seven and a half hours. We sure gave a damn good Christmas today to the “Jerrys.”
Mission #31 February 25, 1945
Rail yards at Munich, Germany
Ship # 027 (Bachelors Delight)
Bomb load 6-1000 lbs
Very very heavy flak
Over 100 holes in ship, roughest one yet.
How we all got out without a scratch, I’ll never know. The ship looked like a sieve. Flak got #2 engine and shot it out. Got right side oxygen system, both tires, #3 oil tank, cylinders in #4 engine, elevator controls, #3 supercharger, both outside and wing tanks.
I never prayed so hard or was more scared in my life. I thought that this was “it”. Santa Anna made a beautiful crash landing with both tires flat, in Brussels, Belgium. They told us our ship was beyond repair and would be salvaged. Flak suits saved 3 of the guys. What kept us from catching fire, I’ll never know; #2 (engine) leaked oil all over the wings, fuse lodge, fin and stabilizer. Lucky outside gas tanks didn’t catch fire. Had a gay time in Brussels. Women, champagne, beer and cognac. Pretty shaky after the mission, but the alcohol pulled us through. Flew back the next day with RAF (Royal Air Force) in a C-47, we all got back. Santa Anna finally made 1st Lieutenant on his birthday the 26th. God grant us luck to finish up soon and all in one piece. Put Lou’s name on all the bombs. Length of Mission-8hrs.
Army Air Corps/USAF
Entered Service July 1942
Pilot on B-17G “Bachelors Delight”
832nd Bomb Squadron, 486th Bomb Group
European Theater, 8th Air Force
Air Medal with 6 OLC