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Burlington’s flying hero

Major Lawrence Hayward (left)

Lawrence Hayward with with Frances in 1948

The Daily Times and Chronicle, Tuesday, August 19, 1980

Burlington Past and Present, by John E. Fogelberg
(Article # 061)

Burlington’s flying hero

The leaves of the maples in New England had turned on their vivid and brilliant yellows, scarlets, and browns and already were past their prime in Canada, as young Larry Hayward made his way northward, headed for Montreal, that long-ago October of 1940. Obsessed with a love of flying since boyhood, the young man was on his way to volunteer his services to the Canadian Air Force, if only they would permit him to fly — something he had learned to do here in Burlington at Britt’s airfield in the late 30s.

When Germany invaded Poland that first day of September 1939, World War II was born, a war that was to involve almost every nation on earth. Young Hayward, with his flying permit in his pocket, tried to enlist in the United States Air Corps for pilot training, but since he could not meet the stringent physical and educational requirements of the time, he was rejected.

Nothing daunted, he left his job at Bustead’s Dairy on Wilmington Road and journeyed north. Once in Canada, recruiters for the Royal Canadian Air Force, faced with a sudden demand for qualified pilots, welcomed him and inducted him into service. There he underwent the Canadian curriculum for air corps work and was given his wings at Ottawa. Because of his flying experience, meager though it was, he became an instructor of fledgling Canadians just learning to fly.

Lawrence James Hayward was born in Somerville on Feb. 8, 1918, the year another war ended, the son of Thomas Porter and Ella May Hayward. He was carried to Burlington as a babe-in- arms when his family moved here in 1919. With him was a brother, Thomas Jr., born 1900; a sister, Dorothy, born 1904; and another sister, Eleanor, born 1915. A third sister, Ruth was born in the new family home on Glen Avenue in 1920. That house on the hill in Winnmere since has been destroyed by fire.

Larry went through the eight grades in the old Union School here and was graduated along with 31 other youngsters in 1931. He went on to Lexington High School, working during his vacation periods on Burlington farms, and was graduated from Lexington in the class of 1935. Always sports-minded, he earned his letter in baseball at Lexington and played for both the Burlingtonians here and later for the Burlington Tigers. He attended Bentley School of Accounting in Boston and somehow managed to pay for his flying lessons at the airport on the corner of Bedford Street and the Middlesex Turnpike, a large flat field once part of the Sebastian farm and now owned by the MITRE Corporation.

The American government uneasily watched what was happening in Europe because of Adolph Hitler, until, early on a Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese launched an attack on America’s naval might assembled at Pearl Harbor and practically wiped out the fleet. The nation declared that a state of war existed the next day.

In May of 1942, 19 months after joining the Canadians, Larry transferred to the United States Army Air Corps, a service that now needed airmen as desperately as the Canadians once did. He was assigned to Bothan, Alabama as an instructor pilot at the single-engine advanced training school there. In November, he was transferred to MacDill Field, Florida for intensive flight and combat training. The following April, he was sent overseas to North Africa, where he joined a B-26 Marauder Bomber group intent on putting a finish to Rommel’s campaign in Africa. Later from a base, in Sardinia, his bomber group hit such dangerous targets as Naples and Rome, both cities literally bristling with German anti-aircraft flak and fighter protection.

Young Hayward’s hairline escapes in the air were matched several times by accidents on the ground. Once while stationed in Sardinia, engine trouble developed on takeoff and Larry’s plane, with a full load of bombs, crashed and burst into flames. He and his crew managed to escape, although several men were hurt and had to be treated for burns.

On his last mission before he returned home on leave, Major Hayward, now Squadron Commander, led his group on the first night attack Marauders ever made in the Mediterranean Theater, in which they heavily damaged an important Italian steel mill. Surprisingly, after his home leave, he was assigned once again to his original combat group where he became Deputy Group Commander with the 12th AAF B-26 Marauder Bomber Group in Corsica. The plane he flew was named “The Termite.”

Later, while his group was stationed in France, Major Hayward was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for “his outstanding proficiency and steadfast devotion to duty, which has reflected great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States.” The citation was for an attack in October 1944 upon the Nervesa Causeway, Italy. “Upon the approach to the target, intense anti-aircraft fire enveloped the formation, damaging five of the bombers. Displaying great courage and determined leadership in the face of heavy ground fire, Major Hayward maintained perfect flight control for a perfect run over the objective. A devastating bomb pattern covered the target area, heavily damaging the causeway and thereby blocking a vital link in enemy communication lines.”

Only out of the service a short time, his service medals decorated with nine Oak Leaf Clusters, he was recalled and served until 1954. He became a Lt. Colonel. But once out for good, he could not give up flying. It was in his blood. He worked awhile for Simon Saw & Steel Co. as a pilot and then as Chief of Flight Facilities for Raytheon, a position that had him flying company officials all over the country. He held that position until his death.

Lawrence Hayward married Frances Duncan, the daughter of William and Nellie Moran Duncan of Winona Road, and one of the six well-known Duncan sisters, in January 1948. The ceremony was officiated by Father Dennis Fitzpatrick in old St. Margaret’s Church, a building only recently demolished. Larry’s brother Thomas was struck by an automobile in front of that same church on Christmas Eve 1965 and died before reaching the hospital.

Larry Hayward built his home at 9 Lexington St. in 1955. He kept his interest in sports as well as flying to the last, playing golf as often as possible after his retirement from the service. He became a charter member of Simonds Lodge of Masons here in town and also a charter member of the Burlington Rotary Club. He died at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston in February 1966, five days short of his 48th birthday. It is ironic that a man who had escaped death a hundred times during his flying career should fall victim to a disease of the blood, a disease that weakened the entire bone structure of his body, a disease for which medical science has yet to find a cure.

So lived Lawrence James Hayward, baseball player, intrepid flyer, military pilot, hero; a man who many people in Burlington still remember.