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Beirne Lay Jr

Military

Beirne Lay assumed command of the 487th Bomb Group at Alamogordo Army Air Base, New Mexico on February 28, 1944, his wife was Philippa Ludwell Lee.
Lay was Shot down on 11 May 1944 in B-24H #41-29468 'Peg O' My Heart', and evaded capture. See the story of his evasion at the COMET evasion network website’s page https://www.evasioncomete.be/flaybe.html
Lay served as one of the six original staff officers under Gen. Eaker at the beginning of the war and flew in the 97th, 100th and 487th Bomb Groups. He later wrote "Twelve O'clock High" with Sy Bartlett, another 8th Air Force veteran. He also wrote "I Wanted Wings".
Author of many other aviation films screenplays, Beirne Lay wrote about the 11 May 1944 mission and his evasion in his book "I've Had It: The Survival of a Bomb Group Commander", published by Harper Brothers in 1945 and re-issued in 1980 by Dodd, Mead & C° under the new title "Presumed Dead: The Survival of A Bomb Group Commander". A French version, "Merci, Paysans de France", had been published in New York by the Editions de la Maison Française. Beirne Lay is mentioned in many books, among which "Eighth Air Force", by Donald L. Miller (Simon & Schuster Inc., New York - 1946). He died in Los Angeles in 1982 and donated his body to the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine.

Service

People

  • William Alich

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Radio Operator | 487th Bomb Group
    B-24 #42-52652 'Bashful Marion'Shot down 11 May 1944 in B-24H #41-29468 'Peg O' My Heart'. Prisoner of War (POW) at Luft IV. POW, EAME, WWII VM, GC, Am. Theater Ribbon,

  • Frank Armstrong

    Military | Lieutenant General | Commanding Officer; Pilot | 306th Bomb Group The Reich Wreckers
    Commanded 97th BG from 31 July 1942 to 27 September 1942. ...

  • Peter Beasley

    Military | Colonel | Chief of Supply
    Beasley was one of 6 staff officers to accompany General Eaker to England in February 1942. He was commissioned into the military after working as an executive of Lockheed Aircraft Company. ...

  • Walter Duer

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Co-Pilot & Tail Gunner during the mission | 487th Bomb Group
    Shot down over occupied France on 11 May 1944 in B-24H #41-29468 'Peg O' My Heart'. After bailing out, Lt Walter Duer landed near Coulonges-les-Sablons, Orne, France, about 15 kilometers to the Northwest of Nogent-le-Rotrou, Eure-et-Loir Department,...

  • Lawrence Heimerman

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Ball Turret Gunner | 487th Bomb Group
    Shot down 11 May 1944 in B-24H #41-29468 'Peg O' My Heart'. Prisoner of War (POW). POW

  • Francis Hodge

    Military | Captain | Bombardier | 487th Bomb Group
    Shot down 11 May 1944 in B-24H #41-29468 'Peg O' My Heart'. Prisoner of War (POW). POW

  • Harris Hull

    Military | Brigadier General | Combat Intelligence Officer
    Hull was one of 6 Staff Officers to accompany General Eaker to England in February 1942. ...

  • Arthur Pelletier

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Top Turret Gunner | 487th Bomb Group
    Shot down 11 May 1944 in B-24H #41-29468 'Peg O' My Heart'. Prisoner of War (POW). POW

  • Robert Peterson

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Tail Gunner | 487th Bomb Group
    Shot down 11 May 1944 in B-24H #41-29468 'Peg O' My Heart'. Evaded.

  • Alfred Richter

    Military | First Lieutenant | Navigator | 487th Bomb Group
    B-24H #41-29468 'Peg O' My Heart'. ...

Show more

Units served with

  • 100th Bomb Group

    100th Bomb Group

    Group
    "The Bloody Hundredth", so-called because of a reputation for losing a high number aircraft and crews, flew B-17s from Thorpe Abbotts, Norfolk. Their losses were not the highest of any Eighth Air Force Group but on several occasions the Group lost many...

  • 487th Bomb Group

    487th Bomb Group

    Group
    The 487th Bomb Group began operations as preparations for D-Day were reaching their crescendo and played their part by bombing airfields in northern France. Like the 486th Bomb Group, the 487th switched to B-17 Flying Fortress for missions from 1...

  • 490th Bomb Group

    490th Bomb Group

    Group
    The 490th Bomb Group, like the 486th and 487th Bomb Groups transitioned from flying B-24 Liberators to B-17 Flying Fortresses, which were used in combat missions from late August 1944. Based at Eye, Suffolk, the Group were focused in the early months...

  • Headquarters Squadron (490th Bomb Group)
  • 838th Bomb Squadron

Aircraft

Missions

  • 350

    11 May 1944

Associated Place

  • Lavenham

    Military site : airfield
    Lavenham was built as a standard USAAF bomber airfield, with fifty hardstandings, T2 hangars and 2,000 and 1,400 feet runways. John Laing and Son Ltd. carried out the work in 1943, and the airfield opened in April 1944. The 487th Bomb Group occupied...

Events

Event Location Date
Born Berkeley Springs, Morgan County, West Virginia, United States 1 September 1909

The son of Beirne Lay and Minnie Colston Lay

Evaded 11 May 1944 – 12 August 1944

As highest-ranking officer on board, Lt Col Beirne LAY replaced Lt Frank Vratny at the controls and jumped last at only 1000ft. He landed near Coulonges-les-Sablons, Orne Department, France, about 15 kilometers to the Northwest of Nogent-le-Rotrou, Eure-et-Loir Department, France. He soon met 2nd Lt Walter Duer and both men were helped by French citizens until taken in charge by the underground. They were last helped and sheltered near the village of Mazangé, near Vendôme, Loir-et-Cher Department, France, from where they were led to an US Armored unit liberating the region. Both were flown back by a C-47 to England where they landed on 15 August 1944.

Died 26 May 1982

Westwood, Los Angeles County, California, United States

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
29 May 2021 20:05:06 ED-BB Changes to biography
Sources

Updated evasioncomete website address

Date Contributor Update
25 February 2020 10:34:53 ED-BB Changes to biography and events
Sources

- Personal research for Beirne LAY’s page at the COMET evasion network website’s page http://www.evasioncomete.org/flaybe.html;
- Escape & Evasion Report at http://media.nara.gov/nw/305270/EE-1036.pdf

Date Contributor Update
24 February 2020 12:52:54 general ira snapsorter Changes to biography
Sources

"Eighth Air Force", By Donald L. Miller.

Date Contributor Update
04 June 2019 13:55:43 Emily Changes to biography
Sources

Transferred biographical details pertaining to Lay incorrectly added to photo caption of FRE 2047 by user PaulWebber

Date Contributor Update
30 January 2019 11:02:34 general ira snapsorter Changes to surname, suffix, events and unit associations
Sources

Merged with duplicate entry to include details from:
- 490th Bomb Group Unit Personnel;
- the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia;
- MACR 4750;
- Paul Andrews, Project Bits and Pieces, 8th Air Force Roll of Honor database;
- Beirne LAY’s page at the COMET evasion network website’s page http://www.evasioncomete.org/flaybe.html;
- Escape & Evasion Report at http://media.nara.gov/nw/305270/EE-1036.pdf
SSDI (Social Security Death Index);
-

Date Contributor Update
26 December 2014 14:36:48 ED-BB Changes to events
Sources

MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) # 4750.
Beirne LAY’s page at the COMET evasion network website’s page http://www.evasioncomete.org/flaybe.html
Escape & Evasion Report at http://media.nara.gov/nw/305270/EE-1036.pdf
SSDI (Social Security Death Index)

Date Contributor Update
26 December 2014 14:12:00 ED-BB Changes to service number, biography, events, person associations, place associations, aircraft associations and mission associations
Sources

MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) # 4750.
Beirne LAY’s page at the COMET evasion network website’s page http://www.evasioncomete.org/flaybe.html
Escape & Evasion Report at http://media.nara.gov/nw/305270/EE-1036.pdf
SSDI (Social Security Death Index)

Date Contributor Update
26 December 2014 13:59:01 ED-BB Changes to surname and middlename
Sources

MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) # 4750.
Beirne LAY’s page at the COMET evasion network website’s page http://www.evasioncomete.org/flaybe.html
Escape & Evasion Report at http://media.nara.gov/nw/305270/EE-1036.pdf
SSDI (Social Security Death Index)

Date Contributor Update
26 December 2014 13:56:49 ED-BB Changes to biography and events
Sources

MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) # 4750.
Beirne LAY’s page at the COMET evasion network website’s page http://www.evasioncomete.org/flaybe.html
Escape & Evasion Report at http://media.nara.gov/nw/305270/EE-1036.pdf
SSDI (Social Security Death Index)

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:04:20 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / MACR 4750 / http://www.487thbg.org/Photos/BeirneLay.shtml , http://www.487thbg.org/Photos/CommandCrew.shtml

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