Sandra Kay Proctor
Niece of Lt. William McDaniel MIA pilot of B-24D "Beautiful Betsy" 42-40387
Tell us about yourself
I was born in 1941 and my Uncle Bill went
missing in 1945. I know that I was very young. What could I remember?
Lots and lots. I will share with you as time goes on.
I am not a writer. But I can put down my emotions and feelings
when I am really feeling those emotions, etc. Don't laugh at my
writing. It is as I remember it:
I had the usual stuff that
made a small person happy. A Mom and Dad that loved each other
and me. I was the oldest so I got into world and set up my
living quarters first. Boy, that was luck.
A grandmother whom we later started
referring to as Mama Mae. She is Uncle Bill's mother. Oh
my, what a special person she is. I really spent a lot of
time with her. Spending the night. Going to church. Taking
bath outside in backyard before going to bed. See we didn't
have or know about air conditioning. So Mama Mae and I got
outside and sprayed each other with water before going to
bed so we would be cool.
William and Sandra
I had Uncle Bill
and my Aunt Lorene. Boy, are they great. You know they really
love me. It is so nice to be loved. It gives me a warm and fuzzy
feeling. Makes me happy. You see, Uncle Bill was my hero. Don't tell my Dad because he
(my Dad) is the love of my life. So kind and gentle. He thought
I was really special too.
Uncle Bill was so very handsome in or out of his uniform. He
seemed to love me in a special way. He didn't really love me
anymore than the other wonderful persons in my family but he
was really special to me. Uncle Bill had this really caring
way with everyone. I used to like thinking that maybe he liked
me the "very best". It was so sad when he went away in his uniform. Where was he
going? Didn't he know that my everyday was sad without him.
He was gone for such a long time. I would sit and dream about
the day that Uncle Bill walked back into the front door. He
would scoop me into his arms and give me the biggest hug ever.
Isn't he so nice. He loves me. A lot of people love me. But
Uncle Bill loved me in a special way my young mind would say.
Oh, he is definitely my hero.
Then one day, there were so many tears. Oh no. Why? What is
wrong? I am so confused. Everyone is there but Uncle Bill. Even
Aunt Lorene is there. Why is she crying? She should be very
happy. She is about to have a baby.....a little baby. I will
help her take care of him. How, you ask, did I know that the
baby would be a boy. Well that is easy because if it were a
girl, I would jealous.
Anyway, the tears didn't stop. More and more letters were coming
to house. Oh, they must be from Uncle Bill. He will be home
very soon and everyone would stop being sad.
WHAT!!! MY Uncle Bill is missing. Well, tell them to find him
and let him come home. I miss him.
What do you mean they don't know where he is?....... I lose
my doll and consider it missing. I alway find my doll or whatever
goes missing in my life. So don't you worry everyone, they will
find Uncle Bill.
Did you ever think that his plane would one day be found?
Absolutely, we thought he would come home to us.
Over the years, Mama Mae, Uncle Bill's mother, still didn't give up
hope. I can remember going with her to see fortune tellers (now referred
to as psychics). As bad as it would be, she hoped that maybe he was
POW somewhere. She kept writing him letters and getting them back
marked MIA. How sad.
She kept the letters and pictures in box in dining room buffet. I
can't tell you the times I pulled that box out and read and read for
hours. See we are a small family and don't turn loose of our loved
ones even in death. She always kept Uncle Bill's pictures on wall
and on top of dresser, etc. She never let him die for us. Her only
son and my only uncle. Now I am looking at one of the pictures just
above my computer.
What were your reactions when you heard that the plane
had been located?
So much relief that we could finally put him to rest. Sad also. Even
though we were very glad to have him found and home, it seemed sad
to take him from place where he and rest of crew and passengers had
been for 50 years.
Talk about your family's role in the investigation with CILHI
We were told there was not enough bone to do DNA.
It would use up all the bone that was left. But they found all the
dog tags but one. We have Uncle Bill's dog tags, wings he was wearing
at crash. Also the markings on the plane were still including serial
Are you in contact with the other crew members?
We were told by an Australian several years before
plane was found that they were actively looking for plane. Then one
day he called us to say that plane had been found. The second place
that I called in Washington DC was right place. I told them that I
heard that they had found my uncle. Silence. Then confirmation. Burial
was about a year later. Some members of families didn't know until
several weeks before funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.
What would you like to share with the world to clarify your
I am also very intent on "pilot error"
not being blamed for cause of crash. My Uncle Bill, William E.
McDaniel, was an excellent pilot. I have been comparing notes
on another website. Things that I brought to attention of website
owner and observations of website owner leads us to believe that
the plane may have been breaking up before crash with the pilot
and co-pilot doing everything they could to keep altitude. His
observations came from visiting the crash site, position and condition
of tail section.
McDaniel in flying gear
William McDaniel & his co-pilot
Last picture of Bill
McDaniel flying a B-24
I learned over the years that things were found along the flight
path of plane that seemed to have been jettisoned maybe in effort
to maintain altitude. The height of crash site was well below
the normal flight altitude even for decent for landing. Propellers
were still turning and damaged in such a manner as to suggest
that plane was indeed trying to keep altitude.
Most importantly remember that plane was well
below normal flight path even if on landing glide. Since no one lived to tell the
story. But I firmly believe in my heart and mind that it was not
"pilot error". It should not be called or implied to
be "pilot error" if not proven. Just to imply that it
could be pilot or crew error is very sad for family members still
What did they conclude about the cause of the crash?
The USA is very fast to call "pilot error"
when no other explanations are found in the mutilated remains after
a crash. It is a joke in our country. "Well guess they will blame
on pilot as usual." Not a good strategy but something has to
be put down as cause and usually the pilot is no longer alive to defend
or tell his side of story. With the condition
of the Beautiful Betsy...... The best story seems to be that the ole
girl was just finally done in from the battle fatigue she had suffered
over the years. It is my understanding that this was to be the last
flight for Beautiful Betsy.
Have you ever visited the site in Australia? Would you ever consider
I have not visited the site but it is definitely
my dream. Have you been there? Maybe we could make trip together if
you were wanting to visit the site. My sister D'Anna would definitely
want to make the trip. Whatever, it is without a doubt my goal and
would be a wonderful finish to the story. Although, and I agree, this
is "The Story That Won't Die". Very appropriate words of
I am talking with another gentlemen in Australia who is talking to
me about a permanent memorial at crash site. It would need to be funded
totally or partially by US government. I asked him the question about
funding but haven't gotten answer. The crash site is definitely considered
a monument in Australia. He asked me to be thinking about a design
for memorial. After a few days, the perfect memorial came to mind
but I am certainly open for more ideas.
My idea would be similar to NASA Challenger memorial at Arlington
National Cemetery. It would have 3-D type center of a B-24 surrounded
by pictures of men aboard plane. It would need color. I thought of
a colored background but that seemed wrong. What if photographs could
be digitally colored. I am in contact with some other families. My
hope and belief is that we can get photographs. The British aboard
may be tricky although I have been give an e-mail address of one of
the nephews of one of the British gentlemen. It could be that he could
get photograph of other British gentleman aboard.
Of course, you know that the crash site is very remote but was told
that since so much of the plane did survive the weather all these
years that a bronze memorial would withstand the elements. The pictures
may not actually be appropriate. In that case, I whole bronze B-24
on top of memorial plaque giving some of the story would be very nice.
Just for info, there is a rain forrest nearby.
If this memorial can be approved by Australia, we may need to take
several people at one time. Not too many. But it is so remote, and
the gentleman from Australia did say that some permission would need
to be obtained from owners of land that would need to be crossed,
etc. Also I have corresponded with many who have visited the site
by 4 wheel drive. Probably without permission. But I guess the memorial
visit would be official and need official treatment and permission.
It is my prayer that this memorial happens.
The gentleman in Australia is a member of a goverment based division.
He said it would be a task to get the permission of different branches
in Australian government but he is member of one of those branches.
He said it could take a "little" time but was something
that could be done.
My sister and I were wondering about people taking things from site.
I was told that there is a hefty fine and possible jail time for such
an act. It is so remote. So maybe only people go there that have a
real respect for the site and wouldn't want it bothered either.
Who has the dogtags now?
My sister has actual dog tags, and she is not good
at scanning. I have pictures of all dog tags (but one) found at site.
I am trying to get a good copy. They are dark. My son may need to
help me get them lighter so the lettering them can be read, and it
would be an honor to have them added to site.
Please share about the serivces at Arlington
are leaving chapel at Ft. Myers. My mom, sister and myself and two
friends preparing to walk behind caisson. Last
Memorial Day, I attended the first Memorial Day Services at the new
National Cemetery between Dallas and Ft. Worth. Did you know about
this national cemetery. It is my understanding that we are losing
hundreds and thousands of veterans EACH DAY. Arlington National Cemetery is filling up fast and they now have some very set rules about who
can be buried there.
went back once to lay wreath at Tomb of Unknown Soldier. A Soldier
met us at Uncle Bill's grave and played taps. This was on a recent
Memorial Day. Flags at each grave were impressive. But even more impressive
are the wreaths with red bows that they lay at each grave at Christmas.
That was very beautiful.
Memorial at Arlington
Memorial at Arlington
Do you have photos or additional information to add?