WANDERER, STEPHEN ALBERT, Second Lieutenant, # 0-433523, USAAF
Stephen A. Wanderer was born on 12 Decembe 1921 in Clancy, Jefferson County, Montana, to Ralph Mathew Wanderer (1890-1963) and Gladys Virginia (Mitchell) Wanderer (1891-1966). Siblings included Ralph M. Wanderer Jr. (1917-1985), Lillian Gladys (Wanderer) Peterson (1911-1974), Peter John Wanderer (1919-2002), Thomas W. Wanderer (1924-1945), Margaret “Peggy” Myrtle (Wanderer) Schultz (1927-2001). In 1940, the family lived in Hamilton, Ravalli County, Montana. He was married to Mabel Dolores (Hunter) Hieronymus nee Wanderer (1922-2006) on 18 May 1941 in Deer Lodge, Powell County, Monana.
He enlisted (enlisted service # 19071784) in the USAAF in Missoula, Montana. He completed his flight training and was rated for multi-engine aircraft. He was sent overseas to India and was selected for assignment to the 1st Commando Group, America’s first special operations military organization which worked closely with the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) in India, China, and Burma. It was in that capacity, he was flying that fateful day. On 24 March 1944, a B-25H, # 43-4242, assigned to 1st Air Commando Squadron, departed the air field at Imphal, India and, at 2030 hours, crashed near Thelon, India. The wreckage of the C-47 was located in Manipur Pradish, India and recovery of some remains was concluded. The unidentifiable remains recovered by allied Graves Registration teams buried them in a single-casket one-grave burial in Arlington National Cemetery (Section 12, site 288). Those remains included are believed to be of the following: British Capt. G.H. Borrow, MC, British War Correspondent Stewart Emeny,1stLt Brian F. Hodges, USAAF, TSgt James W. Hickey, USAAF, SSgt James W. McIninch, USAAF, TSgt Frank Sadoski, USAAF, 2ndLt Stephen A. Wanderer, USAAF, British War Correspondent Stanley Wills, British Major General Orde Charles Wingate, D.S.C.
The first memorial service was held at the crash site in March 1944, with full military honours, with Maj-Gen W. D. A. Lentaigne, Lord Louis Mountbatten, another officer and several British troops in attendance. A wooden cross was put in place; the cross held a round inscribed metal plaque, at its centre, which read: ‘Maj-Gen O. C. Wingate, DSO / Capt. G. H. Borrow, MC / Mr. Stewart Emeny (War Correspondent) / Mr. Stanley Wills (War Correspondent) / 1st Lieut. Brian E. F. Hodges, USAAF / 2nd Lieut. Stephan A. Wanderer, USAAF/ Tech Sgt Frank Sadoski, USAAF / S Sgt James W. Hickey, USAAF / S Sgt Vernon A. McInnich, USAAF’ The plaque was decorated with a simple line image of a chinthe (‘chindit’) and a pagoda spire.
In 1947 the remains of these crash victims were disinterred from their original burial place with the cooperation of allied graves affairs personnel and buried in the British War Cemetery at Imphal in India. As the severe impact of the crash prevented establishing which remains were which person, the policy of the time was for the remains to be buried in the nation from which the majority of the victims originated. In this case, the country was the USA. On 10 November 1950 the intermingled remains were disinterred from the British War Cemetery at Imphal and buried, with full military honours, at Arlington Cemetery in the USA. The grave reference is Sec. 12. Collective Grave 288
His brother, Thomas W. “Tommy” Wanderer, born 29 December 1924, served in the U.S. Army. A Private and infantryman (# 39620308), he was killed in action 17 Jan 1945. He married Marjorie Ellen Hoepfner in 1942. His brother, Ralph M. Wanderer Jr., born 19 August 1917, served in the USAAF in WW II. He had completed four years of college at Montana State University. He enlisted in the USAAF as an aviaton cadet. In 1940, he was in advanced flight school at Bexar, Texas. He earned his commission as a Second Lieutenant, # 0-034016, and his pilot wings on 11 May 1940. He was promoted to First Lieutenant on 1 November 1941; to Captain on 7 November 1942; to Major on 29 May 1943; and to Lieutenant Colonel on 1 August 1944.