Marshall E. Sanders – Colonel, United States Air Force

Marshall E. Sanders, 90, a retired Air Force Colonel who headed the service's military education program and later concentrated on preparedness for nuclear accidents and emergencies, died of cancer October 12, 2007, at his home in McLean, Virginia.

Colonel Sanders spent 20 years in the Air Force before retiring in 1970 as Deputy Commandant of the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. For three years, he oversaw the administrative activities of the large university system that provides education and training for Air Force and Defense Department personnel.

After retiring from the Air Force, Colonel Sanders worked for the Office of Emergency Preparedness in the executive office of the president, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In his second career, he focused on preparedness for peacetime nuclear accidents and emergencies involving other hazardous materials, relatives said.

He also served as a U.S. adviser to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Austria. He was a member of the U.S. delegation to the 1986 conference in Vienna that drafted international agreements regarding early notification and mutual assistance for nuclear accidents, such as the one at Chernobyl, Ukraine.

Colonel Sanders was born in Lees Cross Roads, Pennsylvania, the son of a minister. He graduated from the Williamsport Dickinson Seminary (now Lycoming College) and spent a year at Lingnan University in China. He received a bachelor's degree from American University in 1938 and did graduate work at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. He received a master's degree from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1951.

He flew bombers during World War II, and after the war was senior adviser to the German Ministry of Defense. For his service, he won special commendation from the secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, and the commander-in-chief of the German air force.

Promoted to Colonel at 36, he held a succession of assignments, including staff positions specializing in international political military affairs.

While serving at Air Force headquarters for six years, Colonel Sanders developed policy and equipment requirements for the worldwide Air Force Military Assistance Program. In Washington, as division chief in the office of the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, he had oversight of Defense Department interests in the United Nations, foreign disaster relief, Antarctic operations and the U.S. space program.

His decorations include two Legion of Merit awards and the Air Force Commendation Medal.

Colonel Sanders, an engaging conversationalist with a sense of humor, enjoyed talking about politics and international affairs, said his nephew, the Rev. Frank Sanders. He also liked listening to great preaching.

He was active in the American Legion, the Alzheimer's Association and National Presbyterian Church in Washington.

His wife of 65 years, Thursa Bakey Sanders, died in April. Survivors include two sisters.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 05/30/1916
  • DATE OF DEATH: 04/11/2007

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