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Howard Vaughn (left) and Webb Hayes dress up at the carnival in the early 1940's. (Photo-Mary Maude Algee Hearn)

 

January 28, 1944
A Dear Boy is Lost (Editorial)

 

Webb Hayes has been killed! Those words – the sadness and deep regret with which they were spoken, the frequency with which they were said, and the rapidity with which they enveloped Tiptonville Friday evening and Saturday bespoke the depth of the grief which this community feels at the loss of so fine a young man. Webb was a splendid, lovable boy, a treasure to his family, an asset in the town, and exemplary young American, and a credit to the Naval Ensign’s uniform which he wore proudly and with a high sense of duty.

The writer’s most vivid recollection for Webb will always be the warmth and sincerity of his ready smile. But an appraisal of all his fine qualities would be a ponderous task.

One of our last recollections of him – his last visit here before he left for the West Coast and his eventual death – was seeing him in a discussion of the Bible with his minister, Bro. Homer Royster. He was seeking a better understanding of the book, which he had open in his hand.

Webb was prepared to go. He had worked and striven to win admission to that service in which only America’s select best young men are received – the ranks of Naval air pilots. He knew its dangers – but he also evidenced modest pride that he was able to serve his country in her peril in such and important way.

Yes, Webb has gone on. His home community is bowed anew in humble reflection upon the grimness of war – and upon the infinite price of liberty.


February 4, 1944

Ensign Hayes Had Downed 2 Planes

Ens. Webb Hayes, who was lost to the Pacific Ocean when his Hellcat fighter plane crashed from the carrier deck into the sea in an attempted landing on Jan. 1, had downed two enemy planes prior to his death, it was learned here the past week. Two letters from Webb’s shipmates were received by the Tiptonville pilot’s mother, Mrs. Fanny Hayes, last weekend and they gave a few more details as to how the popular Tiptonville boy lost his life.

Apparently Webb came in to the carrier flight deck in good order, but after he had landed and before the plane stopped, its tail pulled off, and the plane went out of control and over the side of the flight deck, plunging into the sea. This was the version written by Ens. T.R. Ogden, one of Webb’s division mates, with whom he had flown on many of his missions. His letter reads as follows:

January 21, 1944

Dear Mrs. Hayes, This is the first chance that we have had to get any letters in the mail or I would have written sooner. I think John’s division leader, William Ambrosio, has written you telling what happened but perhaps you haven’t received his letter as yet and I feel sure you would like to know.

The tail of John’s plane pulled off when he landed aboard the carrier and the plane went out of control and over the side. The plane sank almost immediately and no one saw John get out. I circled the spot for 10 minutes, but with no results, so we assumed that he went down with the plane.

I know that these are hard cold details, Mrs. Hayes, and they are very hard for me to write, but I’m sure you would rather know the truth than be forever ignorant of the facts. I wouldn’t tell of these things if I weren’t sure of that.

It was the most unfortunate accident we have had and nothing I could say would express how we feel. I flew in the same division with John and got to know him very well. John had a wonderful personality and made many friends easily. He was well liked by everyone in the squadron.

I want to tell you too how well he was doing with his work in the squadron. He already had two planes to his credit and was considered one of our best flyers. He always did his work with a cheerfulness that was wonderful for everyone who worked with him.

I know the sorrow you bear and the only thing left that I can say is that you should be very proud of your son, as we all are. If there is anything I can do for you, do not hesitate to let me know. With my deepest feeling, Ted. Ogen.

 

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