Laverne Saunders was born on March 21, 1903, in Stratford, South Dakota. He entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on July 1, 1924, and graduated as a 2LT of Infantry on June 9, 1928. Saunders completed Air Corps Flying School and was awarded his pilot wings at Brooks Field, Texas, in June 1929. After completing Advanced Flying School, he was assigned to the 40th School Squadron at Kelly Field, Texas, from October 1929 to August 1930. Lt Saunders next served with the 23rd Bomb Squadron at Langley Field, Virginia, where he ferried airplanes to Panama until he became the Assistant Football Coach at West Point in 1931. He served at West Point until December 1939, and then served as Commanding Officer of the 23rd Bomb Squadron and then the 12th Bomb Group at Hickam Field, Hawaii, until shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when he took command of the 11th Bomb Group in the Southwest Pacific, serving until December 1942. Maj Saunders managed to get a bomber into the air during the attack on Pearl Harbor but was too late to find and strike the Japanese Fleet. His next assignment was as Deputy Chief of Staff at Headquarters Army Air Forces in Washington, D.C., where he served from December 1942 to July 1943. Gen Saunders was assigned to the 58th Bomb Wing at Smoky Hill Army Air Field, Kansas, in July 1943, and deployed with the Wing to Kharagpur, India, where he took command of the 58th Bomb Wing, serving there until a crash in a B-25 Mitchell ended his flying career in September 1944. Gen Saunders was a patient at Walter Reed Hospital from September 1944 until he was medically retired from the Army Air Forces on February 28, 1947. Laverne Saunders died on November 16, 1988.
His Navy Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Laverne G. Saunders, Brigadier General [then Colonel], U.S. Army Air Forces, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service as Commanding Officer of the 11th Bombardment Group (H), THIRTEENTH Air Force, U.S. Army Air Forces, in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands on 18 November 1942. Brigadier General Saunders led his group of bombers in a daring daylight raid on enemy shipping in the face of severe antiaircraft and enemy fighter opposition in the Buin-Tonolei area of the Solomon Islands. At least two 1,000-pound bomb hits were scored on enemy vessels and 12 enemy aircraft were destroyed. After his own airplane was badly damaged and it became necessary to land his plane in enemy territory, he skillfully accomplished a water landing near shore thereby permitting the remaining members of his crew to reach safety. Brigadier General Saunders' outstanding courage, daring airmanship and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Armed Service.