Remembering Lt. Theodore Edward Hearne

First some background on this story.

Early this year I was contacted by Lowell Silverman, a researcher from the website Delaware’s World War II Fallen. Lowell was writing a profile on Lt. Theodore Edward Hearne for the website and had a few questions related to Lt. Hearne’s time with the 417th NFS. I had very little information, mostly references to Hearne in the 417th Illustrated History and Brick Eisel’s book: Beaufighters in the Night, and no photos. I could confirm little more than the fact that Hearne was part of the 417th and that he had died, along with his pilot 2nd Lt. Robert Inglis on the night of 20 July in 1944.

Over the course of several emails, I was placed in contact with Lt. Hearn’s nephew. He provided me with a broader view of his uncle’s life in the service. He also provided me with several photos. I kept in touch with Lowell as well. His research uncovered a goldmine of data on Lt. Hearne’s family life as well as his time in the service. I was truely humbled by the level of information Lowell was able to find. He also taught me a trick or two.

With that in mind, I realized that I could not improve on the story that Lowell had written. So that end, I will use this post as a synopsis of Lt. Hearne’s path to the 417th and his short time with it. At the end of this post I provide the reader to the fuller account written Lowell.

Ted Hearne was born in Pennsylvania in 1920 and was the eldest of 11 children. He hails from a family that served their country. His father, 4 of his brothers and a sister all served .

Ted’s service started when he joined Delaware National Guard in 1937. as part of the 198th Coast Artillery Regiment. In March of 1941 his unit moved to Camp Edwards in Massachusetts.

From here, the story gets more complex, but eventually in early 1942, Corporal Hearne and his Regiment, shipped out of Charleston, NC bound for the Pacific Theatre. His regiment was part of an occupied force building a base in Bora Bora as part of an effort to secure sea lines between the U.S and Australia.

After his time in Bora Bora, Hearne transferred along with several other enlisted men to Officer Training in the U.S. In early 1943, he became one of seven cadets to participate in the pre-flight phase of Pilot training at Maxwell Field in Alabama.

While Hearne’s desire was to become a pilot he was unsuccessful. Hearne’s training then shifted to Radar Observer (R/O) and he was attached to the 348th Night Fighter Squadron as a Student. After completing his courses, he was assigned to the 349th and ordered to move to Hammer Field in Fresno, California. According to Wikipedia, the 348th was ordered to Hammer Field to be closer to the Northrup, the manufacturer of the P-61. Hearne’s nephew recounted that Lt. Hearne flew in the P-61 prior to it being placed into the war effort. What an experience that must have been.

After a series of squadron transfers and reorganisation, Hearne headed overseas to Algeria to join the 417th Night Fighter Squadron of the 63rd Fighter Wing at Borgo Aerodrome on the French Island of Corsica. The exact date of this transition is not clear, however Individual Flight Records show Hearne partnered as a Radar Observer with Lt. Hill, Capt. McCray, Lt. Kirwan, Capt. Stirnus and Capt. Lee starting on 17 June 1944 and ending on 30 June 1944. Hearne began his training flights with the 417th in Beaufighters.

On July 5th, 1944, 2nd Lt. Robert Inglis joined the 417th. It is worth noting that it is possible that Hearne and Inglis knew each other prior to their joining the 417th as their previous time with 348th and 349th overlapped. What is clear, is that, according to Individual Flight Records, on July 7th, 1944, two days after Inglis arrived, Hearne (R/O) and Inglis (Pilot) were partnered on a series of training flights that ran thru to 18 July, 1944.

On 20 July, 1944, at 2140 hrs, Inglis and Hearne took off in their Beau “Wastenot 77” ( VIF, AAF Serial Number ND262). They were vectored towards a “bogey” at 2310 hrs. There is some evidence that the bogey in the transcript was a “Bedcheck Charlie” – a common term for any recurring nighttime harassment flights aimed at keep the troops from resting.

A transcript of the encounter and resulting incident written by George Parrott, a Flying Office and Controller indicates that they located the enemy at 2324 hrs and hit their target. At 2325 hrs they reported the hit and informed Setsquare that the enemy had hit the water. At 2326 hrs they were told to vector 280 degrees. Parrot did not receive a reply but noted that Sector Ops received a call from Wastenot 77 indicating that Inglis and Hearne were going in to look at the wreckage. This was the last message from the crew. A search of the area at dawn confirmed debris from the enemy and Wastenot 77 had , but no remains of Inglis or Hearne were recovered.

The following document show the communications on that fateful night.

The following is a tracing of the area where the Inglis and Hearne’s Beau went down. It was drawn by George Parrot who was stationed at Scorton Air Field in the UK.

According to Company Morning Reports, Hearne and Inglis were initially listed as MIA, on July 20th at 2330 hrs. This status changed to KIA on September 12, 1944.

Both 2nd Lt. Robert Inglis and Lt. Theodore Hearne were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross along with the Purple Heart.

For a more in-depth look at Lt. Theodore Hearne’s life and career, I encourage you to view the profile published by Lowell Silverman on the Delaware WWII Fallen website:

Lastly, my heartfelt thanks to Gary Hearne and Lowell Silverman for their contributions, without which I would not have been able to write this story.