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"I always maintained that no other airman who'd been shot down had a birthday party five minutes after he was on the ground." (Video Interview, 9:24)

   Edwin W. Hays
Image of Edwin W. Hays
Edwin W. Hays, ca. 1943-1945 [detail]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Army Air Forces/Corps
Unit: 335th Bomb Squadron, 95th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force
Service Location: Horham, England
Rank: Staff Sergeant
POW: Yes
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Edwin Hays enlisted in the Army Air Force out of high school in the fall of 1942 and next June was assigned to the 8th Air Force, and a B-17 crew of 10 men from 10 different states. On his 14th mission, on February 24, 1944, Hays' plane, "Just Elmer's Tune" (named after the Glenn Miller song), was shot down over Denmark. Sheltered briefly by locals, Hays was captured and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp. On the 51st anniversary of the plane going down, the Dane who as a teenager had first rescued him, called him to invite him to a 50th anniversary celebration of Denmark's liberation from Germany. Hays made several trips to Europe and even met the German pilot who shot down his plane, and they became good friends.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (5 clips)
»Complete Interview  
Download: video (42 min.)
»Transcript
  Photos
»Photo Album (25 photos)
 Memoirs
»An interview with other documents
 Personal Correspondence
»View List (2 items)
 Other Materials
»Poem "dedicated to the heroic crew of the American Flying Fortress" [February 24, 1944]
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»Wings of War
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (5 items)
Wanted to enlist after Pearl Harbor attack, but parents made him finish high school; enlisted in October 1942 in Army Air Force; to gunnery school and armor school and flight training; assigned to crew of 10, from 10 different states, in 8th Air Force, 95th Bomb Group, stationed in Horam, England; first mission in December 1943; completed 13 missions before he was shot down. (03:07) Shot down over Denmark on February 24, 1944; lucky it was not over water; during winter, survival was unlikely in that scenario; young man took Hays on his bicycle to a nearby farmhouse, where he was treated to birthday cake and coffee; Germans were on their trail, so local doctor had to turn him over; hospitalized; nurses slipped him food treats; he and another crew member were taken to a POW camp in Germany. (04:50) First camp was Dulag Luft; then on to Stalag Luft 6; he arrived in time to hear about the aftermath of the Great Escape from Stalag Luft 3; most of the men had been caught, some executed, others returned to the camp. (02:50)
As Russians advanced, prisoners in his camp were removed, taken by ship to a new location; horrible conditions in the hold, as it was midsummer; had to walk a gauntlet to the camp, handcuffed to another prisoner, beaten by cadets, terrorized by dogs along the way; Stalag Luft 4 had worst conditions; Russian advance prompted another move in January 1945; he was lucky to draw a high card which put him on a boxcar rather than having to make a 600 mile march in 76 days to new location; Russians liberated them on May 1; Americans evacuated them on B-17s on May 12. (05:09) Fifty years to the day Hays was shot down, Johannes, the Dane who rescued him, called to invite him to Denmark for the 50th anniversary of their liberation from Germany; Hays returned to Europe several times and met the pilot who shot his plane down; his plane went down that day, too; they became friends and stayed in touch through e mail. (13:36) 
  
 Personal Correspondence (2 items)
Letter written to Edwin Hays ' parents by Mr. A Peterson with "special greeting" from the doctor who treated Hays and other members of his crew [September 11, 1945] Letter sent to Edwin Hays parent by an anonymous Dane informing them of Edwin'scondition [March 1, 1944] 
  
 
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  October 26, 2011
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