Visual Biography Company Captures Life Story of Youngest WWII Pilot

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George H.W. Bush vs. Martin Ritchey Sidener. Capturing the legacy of the youngest pilot in WWII. The Visual Biography Company tells the story.

youngest wwii pilot, marty sidener, b26 marauder

Lt. Martin R. Sidener, B-26 Marauder Pilot

I never considered myself a hero. I was just a young man serving my country. I was one of the lucky ones, I came home.

George H.W. Bush, our 41st president, or Martin "Marty" R. Sidener? Who was the youngest pilot of WWII? That controversy, although not serious, has gone on for years. The Visual Biography Company filmed the life story of Lt. Sidener on July 16th, 2012. Their efforts found the Bush claim to be “almost true”.

The former President Bush was indeed the youngest pilot in the Navy. Born June 1, 1924, he enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday, went through 10 months of aviator training and, just three days before his 19th birthday, received his wings as the youngest WWII "Navy" pilot.

Lt. Sidener's story starts with his daughter. After reading a recent column in the Dallas Morning News, Lyn Sidener Baugh, contacted the Visual Biography Co. about doing the story of her dad, Martin “Marty” Sidener. She claimed that her dad was the youngest pilot in WWII and, after a little research, it was determined she was absolutely right. Lyn told them “I’ve been looking for years for someone that could do my dad’s story justice. He doesn’t think he’s a hero, but he was to all those that served with him, and even more so to us, his family.”

Marty Sidener was born Feb 1st 1925. He fell in love with flying at the age of 9 when he saw a plane in a field near his home in Arkansas City, KS. The pilot was giving spectators rides for $3 each. He couldn’t afford the ticket but the sight of that machine taking off and landing put the passion in his heart to reach the skies. In Jan. 1943, at 17, Marty enlisted in the Army Air Corp. He was told they would wait until he graduated to call him up, but on March 28th the call came, and he headed for aviation training. His high school granted Marty a diploma anyway, so his girlfriend and future wife, Jo Ann Radley, accepted it for him.

Marty graduated from flight school on Jan. 7th, 1944 and married Jo Ann three days later. He was still over three weeks from his 19th birthday, making him the youngest to recieve his pilot wings. He was soon assigned to the 17th Bomb Group, 34th Squadron flying a B-26 Marauder as co-pilot and pilot. He flew 48 missions over Italy, France and Germany, 21 of them before his 20th birthday. Although Marty was the pilot he was almost always the youngest of the 7-man B-26 crew. He recalls the story of one 39 year-old co-pilot that asked to be re-assigned when he found out that 19 year-old Lt. Marty Sidener was the pilot. Marty laughs it off, “I said, That's fine, I can't blame you”. Marty earned the respect of his crew, not by his years of experience, but by his fierce determination to do his duty and his skill as a bomber pilot. Although he had many close calls, he was never shot down, and gives the credit to a lot of luck and the tough B-26 bomber.

So you see, Marty Sidener was the youngest WWII pilot, if only by a few weeks. Not that it makes a lot of difference when the bullets are flying and the bombs are dropping. Marty never sought the spotlight; he was serving his country as were millions of others. That’s how he wants to be remembered.

After the war Marty went on to attend college, and he and Jo Ann had two children. He eventually became a successful representative for Boeing selling aircraft and missile parts. An avid golfer, Marty says one of his biggest joys was winning the Wichita City Championship in 1957. As with many others, the war came and went, and his life went on. Home and family became his legacy and that is what is most important to him.

The Visual Biography Co. is reaching out to others of the “greatest generation” like Martin Richey Sidener. Their motto is “A Life Worth Living is a Story Worth Telling”. Other notables have sought their services, such as Zig Ziglar, Tony Roosevelt (grandson of FDR), the Thompson family (7-Eleven), and Phil Romano (Macaroni Grill). Go to http://www.visualbiography.net for more information.

About The Visual Biography Company: Greg Vaughn, president of Grace Products Corp., founded the Visual Biography Company in 1995. After the death of his mom it became his passion to produce high quality "living" histories of people in the A&E style. His early work began in the Dallas and North Texas area but recently has expanded to offer the service nationwide with particular attention to WWII veterans. Vaughn says “It’s one thing to tell your kids about hitting the beaches of Iwo Jima, it’s quite another to tell the story with rolled music and archival footage.” His passion became a hobby, now his hobby is becoming a priceless treasure for hundreds of families. To date, over 80 have been completed.

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