James
     Letter to James Hurd's Mother
Added April 9, 1997

This letter was written to James Hurd's mother shortly after Jim's death by a man who was in his flight squadron. James had been a fighter pilot during World War II.

January 18, 1945

Dear Mrs. Hurd:

I got your letter the other day and was sorry that you had received no more information than you have. You said you could take it, so Iíll give you the whole story as it happened and try to omit nothing.

When we first started flying our missions, Lt. Filkel got sick and had to go to the hospital for a couple of weeks. During this time, Lt. Tudor, our bombardier, Sgt. Bleven, our engineer, and myself the navigator, all got several missions ahead of the rest of our crew by filling in on crews with a man missing. When Lt. Filkel came back we all started flying together again so when we three finished our missions, the rest of the boys still had five to go. Four of these were flown with no mishap. It was on their last mission that the crackup occurred. The last time I saw the boys was on the afternoon before their last flight. I had just come back from London and all the boys were sitting around the front of our hut soaking up the warm sunshine that we had all to seldom in England. Everyone was in a good humor and were overjoyed that after the next day they would be on their way home to see their loved ones. We talked a lot about what we were going to do when we got home. After taking a good razzing from Jim and Filkel about my girl in town, I took off for Kings Lynn and that was the last time I saw them.

The next day was very foggy, you could hardly see half way down the runway, and as the planes lumbered toward the take-off a cold wind bit through winter flying clothes and belied the warm sun of yesterday. Jimís plane was first to take off. They were to lead the wing that day. Take-off time came and the engines roared as they lifted the fully loaded planes from the ground. Three minutes after the plane had taken off, the people in the control tower heard a crash in the distance. Paradoxically, not more than five or ten minutes later, the fog cleared and about eight miles from the field could be seen an ugly black column of smoke.

I didnít go near the wreckage nor did I fly over it, but my squadron C.O. told me that the right wing of the plane had caught on some trees. The plane was totally demolished and burned. The largest piece was half of one of the wings. The bombs didnít explode but were torn loose and scattered in the near vicinity. Whoever told you that the engines failed did not know what he was talking about. Why, after flying three minutes, the plane was no higher than it was no one will ever know. The best guess that any one can seem to make is that somehow their flight instruments were not working.

I had a long talk with the Doctor who was in charge of recovering the bodies. He said that undoubtedly everyone was killed instantly. Everyone on board was killed, eleven in all. Of the eleven, only three were unrecognizable, he didnít say which three, I did not ask.

Our boys were buried one Friday afternoon on a shady little hill just outside Cambridge. You can look out from that hill and see the pastoral lands of England with its historical and scenic beauty spread before you. They were lowered slowly into their final resting place as the bugler blew taps, and their friends gave them a farewell salute as they went on their last journey. Overhead the sky was gray and the occasional drone of engines in the sky made you remember that the war was still going on, that more boys like these would have their lives stopped long before their time. No matter how much we realize that these men had died for the cause for which we all fight, no matter how much we realize that these men had not died in vain, it still hurts very, very, much. All of the boys were like brothers to me, when they left part of my life went with them. I shall always miss them, but I shall always be proud that I was allowed to fly with them. They were a good crew.

As far as I know, there are very few clothes or personal belongings go be returned and these probably wouldnít be returned until after the war. I donít believe that any of Jimís papers would be valuable to anyone else, but Iíd hold on to them for something may come up in the future. Yes, I remember Jim speaking of Alice, he seemed to think quite a bit of her but further than that Iím afraid I can be of no help. Before Jim died he had won the Air Medal with three clusters (that's the orange and blue one). The clusters are the same as winning the same medal again. The other ribbon is the European Theater Ribbon, the brown and green one. The stars on this ribbon are called battle stars. They designate the major campaigns that you have taken part in. After the crash Lt. Tudor and myself went to awards and decorations and found out that the boys had be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for their work. This medal should be presented to you at your nearest air field sometime in the future.

I believe that just about covers everything. I have told you the whole story and tried to spare you nothing for I felt this was best. I would like very much to keep in touch with you and if I ever get in your section of the country would like to drop in and see you. I will have to close now. Goodbye for now, hoping to hear from you soon.

Signed Lt. Earl E. Tyson

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