Walter Hayes Jr.

Walter Hayes Jr.’s high school photo

Walter “Junior” Hayes Jr. was a young man who gave his life during World War II on July 2, 1944 in the woods near the village of Ampfield, England.  An article titled – Briton honors Fort Wayne serviceman, about Walter Jr. was found in the July 2, 1998 Journal Gazette – PEOPLE Section on page 7.  According to this article, Martin Vear, who lives in Hampshire in Southern England, was walking through the woods around Ampfield and he found a remnant of a plane.  Vear “found pieces of a wristwatch, a pilot’s whistle and an I.D. bracelet with the name Duran F. Quinn.”  He learned from area residents that a Cessna Bobcat UC-78 had crashed into the woods.  The accident killed “the pilot, Hayes; the co-pilot, Capt. Billy Bryan of Cameron, Tex., and three passengers” including 2nd Lt. Quinn of Elizabeth, Louisiana.  According to the Journal Gazette article ” Hayes and Bryan were flying to England to pick up parts for their P47s – the fighter-bombers called Thunderbolts… the other three, also P47 pilots, were on leave, hitching a ride.”

(Click to link to the article – Briton honors Fort Wayne serviceman  and an article from the Temple Daily Telegram dated October 10, 1997)

“Junior” was graduate of St. Paul’s Lutheran School and North Side High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  According to family members, he always loved to fly.  In fact, he was studying aeronautical engineering at Tri-State College (Angola, Indiana) at the time Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese.  While at Tri-State he participated in a flight training program offered by  the Civil Aeronautics Authority.  Walter Jr. did not complete his senior year because of the bombing.  Soon after the attack he enlisted and was sworn in at Baer Field on December 31, 1941.  In 1942 he went into Aviation Cadet training.  This training was offered to new pilots, even though he had had flying experience, he still participated in this training.  According to the article from the Journal Gazette “He received his commission and wings at Napier Field, Alabama, October 8, 1942”.  “Junior” was promoted to 1st Lieutenant in November of 1943.  He then traveled to Orlando, Florida for training on flying the P-47 along with dive-bombing tactics.

In March of 1944, Walter Junior went overseas with the 9th Army Air Force.  Junior had received the Air Medal for raids over France and Germany before D-Day invasion. His last letter home to his parents was written “from a foxhole in Normandy.”

The 50th Fighter Group was part of the 9th Air Force. The Group contained the 10th, 81st, and 313th fighter squadrons. A single UC 78 Bobcat was assigned to the 50th and it was used as a utility aircraft. As a utility aircraft, it would be used to transport crews to back to the United Kingdom for R & R. The stately manor house Roke Manor was used by the US Air Force as a R&R base. It is located about 10 minutes to the north of Romsey. The manor is set in a beautiful countryside setting.

The plane was manned by a two-man crew. They would take up to three pilots as passengers. Then on the way back to France they would bring back lightweight parts on the rear seat. The rotating crews would fly replacement P47’s back to France when coming off leave.

July 2, 1944 was a fateful day for “Junior”. He and four others left Carentan, in Normandy, France that morning heading to Chilbolton, Hampshire, England.  Chilbolton was used as a supply depot for replacement aircraft as well as an operational base. Junior was the pilot of a Cessna Bobcat going to England to pick up spare parts for the 313th Fighter Squadron of the 50th Fighter Group. Those on board for the flight consisted of 1st Lt. Walter Hayes Junior, 2nd Lt. Dale C. Frances and three other pilots hitching a ride over to England. Those going along for the ‘ride’ were Lt. Duran F. Quinn, who was celebrating his 24th birthday, Capt. Norman Nelson, Captain Billy B. Bryan. All of them were P-47 Thunderbolt pilots during the D-Day Invasion on June 6th, 1944.

As the Cessna Bobcat reached the coastline of England the weather turned and flying became hazardous.  The accident happened on a very cloudy day with a lot of rain. According to an article in The Oakdale Journal *, the U.S. military thought that the plane also experienced engine mechanical problems during the flight.  On the way to Chilbolton, the Bobcat experienced a failure in the right wing.  The Bobcat was within 10 minutes of its destination when the problems became dire. The crew knew that the plane was not going to make it. The plane was now approaching the Parish of Ampfield, Hampshire in England with no where to land safely. A resident of Ampfield (Steve White who was 11 years old at the time) said that the pilot of the Bobcat turned the plane away from the village and headed to a wooded area near by.

According to Martin Vear, there may have been four (4) potential factors that caused the accident.

1st – There may have been structural failure from previous repaired damage.

2nd – Because of very low clouds and poor visibility, the Bobcat hit a very tall tree that was located near St. Mark’s Church located in Ampfield, England. There was also a very big hill about a quarter of a mile to the north of the town. Walter and Billy may not have seen the trees around the church until they were on top of them. A very tall hill was in the line of sight of the flight path and it possibly blocked these trees from the view from the cockpit of the Bobcat.

3rd – The Bobcat experienced engine failure. In the event of an engine failure, the pilot would be able to “feather the prop” into the wind to reduce drag and get the plane under control. Because of the props of the UC 79 being fixed and not adjustable, they could not do this maneuver. The prop will turn without the engine running. This will cause the aircraft to swing violently in the direction of the engine that was not running. This in turn would put a lot of stress on the wing of this engine which may have caused part of the wing to collapse. If there was only one engine the pilot would have had a better chance of gliding the aircraft to safety. That is if there wasn’t anything in the way of the plane. Walter Hayes did not have this opportunity.

4th – According to the engineering report that followed the accident, it appears that two of the plane’s engine gauges were “out”. The report stated that it appears both engines had clocked up about 273.15 flying hours. This report was compiled by the station officer of the 367th Fighter Group located at a neighboring airfield.

According to Alexandria Daily Town Talk, “The U.S. military removed the bodies of the airmen and the plane’s wreckage, but some debris and other items, including Quinn’s bracelet, were left behind. The villagers stayed away from the area, out of superstition or respect, and the woods grew thick around the crash site. It was undisturbed for 35 years.”

Young Martin Vear took a shortcut on his way home one summer day in 1980. This shortcut was through the very woods where the accident happened some 35 years before. He came across several items that remained after the military ‘cleaned’ the area. Items included pieces of aluminum sheet metal and a shoebox full of other items such as watches and an ID bracelet belonging to Lt Duran F. Quinn. Mr. Vear spent several years trying to track down the families of the fallen airmen and return to them various articles found at the crash site.

On July 2, 1988, the 54th anniversary of the crash, the village of Ampfield, Hampshire, England unveiled a memorial to the five U.S. pilots.

Photos taken at the Memorial dedication ceremonies on July 2, 1988 in Ampfield ***

*The Oakdale Journal, Oakdale, Louisiana dated October 9th, 1997 on pages 1A, 7A, and 8A
** The Town Talk, Alexandria-Pineville, Louisiana dated October 5th, 1997 pages A 4-6
*** From Martin Vear ( 1st – The completed and dedicated memorial stands facing the village church of St. Mark’s, Ampfield  – 2nd – The American Air Force Colour Guard  3rd – Martin P.J. Vear, left with his father Mr. Bryan J.H. Vear at Memorial  4th – The three padres prepare for the service  5th – Reverend Dale Francis Jr., Martin PJ Vear and Marie Quinn Cole standing by memorial  6th – The only airworthy P-47 Thunderbolt fighter aircraft makes the start of a fly-past salute over the tree-tops behind St. Mark’s Church)

The Four Pilots on the Cessna Bobcat were:
1st Lt. Walter Hayes Junior – from Fort Wayne, Indiana
2nd Lt. Dale C. Francis – from Erie, Pennsylvania
Lt. Duran F. Quinn – from Oakdale, Louisiana
Capt. Norman Nelson – from Fargo, North Dakota
Capt. Billy B. Bryan – from Cameron, Texas

After the accident, Walter Hayes Jr. was buried along with other airmen in England.  His future brother-in-law, Richard Miller (U.S. Navy) managed to find “Junior’s” gravesite.  He took a photo of the cross with Junior’s I.D on it and sent it home to Dorothy Hayes, his fiancé, and her parents.

Juniors remains were returned from England around 1949. Walter Hayes Jr. is now buried in the Huntertown Cemetery, Huntertown, Indiana along with other members of his family.