Field of Flags Spotlight
Martin Ritchey Sidener was the youngest World War II pilot. Know to his friends in Pecan Plantation as “Marty” he passed away Feb. 7, 2015 in Dallas.
According to his family, Sidener was obsessed with fl ying from the age of 9. Born in Arkansas City, Kansas, there was an airfi eld right next to his house. He couldn’t afford the $3 for a ride, but stood by the airfi eld and watched the plane. He knew he was meant to be a pilot.
At 17, right before graduating from high school, he fi lled out the necessary paperwork to join the Army Air Corps (now the Air Force.)
Enlisting in January 1943, he was told he would be called after he graduated high school. That call came in March however, just two months shy of his graduation day. His school granted him the leave and the diploma was given to his girlfriend, Jo Ann Radley, whom he married a year later.
Sidener fi nished fl ight school on Jan. 7, 1944 at the age of 18, becoming the youngest pilot to receive his wings. He married his girlfriend before deployment, and they were married 63 years.
Assigned to the 17th Bomb Group, 34th Squadron, he was copilot of a B-26 Murauder and quickly became the pilot. Over hostile Italy and Germany, he fl ew 28 missions before he turned 20.
He flew 48 missions total (which during World War II was a high number). Lt. Sidener was never shot down, although he recalled a few close calls. He attributed his luck to fl ying the B-26 which he said was one tough bird.
He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 8 Oak Leaf Clusters.