Joshua D. Sanford was born near Friendship, Wisconsin on January 19, 1919 the son of Herbert Sanford and Maude Decorah Sanford. A Native American, he was the grandson of Chief Decorah of the Winnebagos and his father, Herbert, a Seneca from Cayuga County, New York, was a graduate of Cornell University.
His parents divorced while Josh was still young and growing up with his father in the Hillsboro area and other friends and relatives at various locations throughout the state was a trying experience. He overcame those adversities and graduated from the Viroqua High School. Josh was attending the University of Wisconsin, when the onset of World War II occurred; he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps.
After graduating from Cadet's School and receiving his "Wings" and Lieutenant's commission, he was sent to the China-Burma-India Theatre of Operations where he became a combat pilot in the World War II campaign against the Japanese. His service was with General Chenault's famous "Flying Tigers," officially known as the Sixty-eight Composite Wing. Captain Sanford served successively as operations officer, communications officer, and unit commanding officer.
Joshua was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Air Medals, the Purple Heart, five campaign ribbons and presidential and unit citations in recognition of his flying exploits over China, including 102 combat flights with the 75th Fighter Squadron, 23rd Fighter Group, 14th Air Force.
Josh was officially credited with the downing of eight planes, but undoubtedly had many more and he was once quoted as saying, "In a dogfight, we never knew who the kills went to."
He was shot down or ditched twelve times. Twice wounded in action, he spent long periods in Veterans Hospitals. He retired from the service with the rank of Captain, the only Native American to serve with the famed "Flying Tigers," and is credited with 102 combat flights during service in China. Josh served from November 1940 to June 1945.
Following the war's end, Josh completed his education in electronics and became an electronics engineer for Hallicrafters Corporation in Chicago. Later he returned to Hillsboro and established the Sanford Radio and Electronics Shop, which he operated for several years.
Joshua was united in marriage to Rosemary Bertz on June 21, 1948, who at that time was teaching school in Wonewoc. They and their two children, Maureen and Conant William Sanford resided in Hillsboro until 1956, when he accepted an offer to manage the Reedsburg Municipal Airport, moving to Reedsburg. He was for some time a factory representative of the Radio Corporation of America.
In August of 1961, Josh was appointed Sauk County Civil Defense Director. He was credited with extensive advance planning in Sauk County civil defense and was to head the Civil Defense communications center for eleven southwestern Wisconsin counties.
Joshua was long interested in the progress of Native American Affairs and was a member of the Wisconsin Winnebago Tribal Affairs Committee which had assisted federal legislators in planning legislation of importance to Wisconsin's Native Americans.
Joshua persevered in his duties until his untimely death from complications of war injuries, kidney ailment and diabetes, on October 21, 1962 at the age of 43. Burial of his remains are at the Mount Vernon Cemetery in Hillsboro, Wisconsin.
In 1993 the City of Hillsboro named its airport the "Joshua Sanford Field" in memory and honor of the famed pilot of World War II.Back to Vets Page