Herald JournalHerald Journal, Oct. 20, 2003

63 years later, Loren Zander is honored for track, war service

By Lynda Jensen

Loren Zander of Howard Lake was recently honored with a state champion medal and letter jacket by Hamline University for something he did 63 years ago.

Zander was part of a winning track team at Hamline in 1940, when he interrupted his education to join the Air Force during World War II.

The Hamline track team was state conference champions that year, with Zander taking fifth in the state for the quarter-mile run.

To recognize Zander's athletic ability and service to his country, the university honored him before a volleyball game against Augsburg Oct. 8.

His granddaughter, Billie Jo Painschab, is a sophomore at Augsburg, and was playing at the game, so Hamline made special arrangements to have Painschab present the medallion to Zander.

"I felt honored and proud," commented Billie Jo Painschab.

The event took place in front of a crowd, with about 25 members of the Zander family as part of the cheering section.

Hamline won the volleyball match, four games (30-13, 30-18, 25-30, 30-15).

It all started in 1940, when Zander attended Hamline for one year as a freshman.

The future looked good for Zander, but he decided to set aside his personal goals when World War II broke out, and enlisted in the military as a pilot.

His tour of service was five years as a first lieutenant with the 489th bomb group of the 20th Air Force. He did not return to Hamline.

Zander spent the war as a commander on a B-29 bomber ­ the biggest bomber in the US fleet at the time.

His crew successfully executed 38 missions over Japan.

Japan surrendered shortly after his last bombing mission.

About half of these missions were from high altitude, or about 30,000 feet, Zander said.

During 1942, the US Department of Defense decided to fly low-altitude missions to increase accuracy, from about 5,000 feet.

"From then on, it was a fire mission," he said, referring to the mostly wooden structures on the Japanese homeland and islands.

Thousands of people died in the raids during the war.

Zander received the distinguished flying cross for his service.

When he returned to the states, Zander became a pilot for Northwest Airlines for a time.

Eventually, he quit flying and spent 27 years as a rural mail carrier.

Later in life, Zander returned to serve in the Korean War.

Zander keeps a trunk full of interesting World War II memorabilia and has traveled to area schools to share his experiences, including Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted and the Buffalo school district, Billie Jo commented.

When Zander was a service man, he'd trade cigarettes that were rationed to him for different articles, such as a piece of a Japanese plane, and other items, she said.

He also has his original medical kit, she said.

Zander recently welcomed home his grandson, Philip Zander, who returned from serving in Iraq and Kuwait.

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