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On This Day 7-FEB-1942, We Honor a Fallen Hero

Robert James Sandell was born 15-JAN-1916. He was from Lincoln County, Oklahoma and later moved to St. Charles MO.  He lived at 114-A South Main Street. 

Robert enlisted in the Army Air Corp at Randolph field in Texas where after eight months in service he received an appointment to West Point Military Academy.  He was a cadet for two years before resigning to return to aviation at Kelly Field Texas.  Robert was single, and his mother called flying, the love of  his life.  In July of 1940, he resigned from the Army Air Corp to join the American Volunteer Group (AVG) 1st Squadron; the Flying Tigers. He sailed for China to guard the Burma Road for the Chinese Government.  The Tigers were paid $600.00 a month and $500.00 for each Japanese plane they shot down. 

He was serving as a Squadron Leader in the Flying Tigers when he was killed on 7-Feb-1942 when his recently-repaired P-40 Warhawk shed its tail on a flight over Mingaladon airport near Rangoon, Burma.  Robert’s fighter plane was damaged when a Japanese flier committed suicide by diving onto its rudder while it was parked on the airfield at Rangoon.  After the craft was repaired Sandell made a test flight during which the fatal crash occurred.

Upon hearing the news, the Chamber of Commerce in St. Charles declared a street will be named for Robert in a Post-Dispatch article dated 28 February 1942.  “The street will be named for Lieutenant Robert J. Sandell, “The Sandy of the Burma Road (He was known to his squadron as Sandy) who was killed after downing seven Japanese planes.”  Robert was an "Ace" and posthumously awarded a British Distinguished Flying Cross

Robert’s mother, Mrs. Morgan B. Norris received the Cross from Lord Halifax (Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax).  She told Lord Halifax that in combat over China her son who was a squadron leader, led a group that intercepted 10 Japanese planes, downed seven of them and crippled the remaining three (From St. Louis Globe Democrat and Associated Press 20-February 1943).  Mrs. Norris also received medals from the Chinese government forwarded to her by Brigadier General C. L. Chennault, Commander of the American Volunteer Group.  The medals were awarded to her son posthumously by the Chinese government in recognition of his heroism and courage.  Also forwarded to St. Charles was his trunk containing many personal effects and a large assortment of Chinese souvenirs and gifts which he intended to bring home.  

The Monitor Newspaper (McAllen, Texas) reported, “Sandell killed in action in February, was included by the War Department in a list of ten members of the American Volunteer Group (AVG) decorated by the British air command in India for gallantry during operations in Burma.”

Robert is Honored and Remembered at the St. Charles County Veterans Museum on the Wall of Honor.


Please contact the St. Charles County Veterans Museum Oral History project at or call 636-294-2657 for more information and lets’ talk. We want to hear from you because we know…Every Veteran has a story.


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