H-D History: Tailgunner’s Mount Makes It Home!


Those who die young are almost always remembered for who they were at the time they died. Just as actor James Dean remains a dashing figure with untold talent, so Wallace Van Sandt is a high-flier in the sweet spot of a great American life. His need for speed first became apparent at Phillips High School in Birmingham, Alabama, where Van Sandt competed in track and field and other sports, earning several medals. He graduated in 1942, and his father gave him a new 1941 Harley-Davidson WLD as a graduation gift. The motorcycle, in a color called Flight Red, cost approximately $400 new.

Like many young men, Van Sandt joined the Army Air Corps in 1942. For his last day of civilian life, he rode to all his favorite places near Mentone, Alabama, where he spent summers with his mother. He spoke of plans for life after the Army: to marry his girlfriend Peggy and attend Auburn University to study forestry. Before leaving for war, Van Sandt logged 19,088 miles flying on the WLD he clearly cherished..

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