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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.

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William McDaniel

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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 number.

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 uncle's mission?
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.

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McDaniel in flying gear

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William McDaniel & his co-pilot

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Last picture of Bill

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McDaniel flying a B-24

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McDaniel's crew

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 living.

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 going?
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 my sister.

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
Pictures 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.

I 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.

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Memorial at Arlington

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Memorial at Arlington

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