Last Known Activity
Thomas Frederick Layden was born in Dallas, Texas in early 1922. He was the son of Peter J. and Francis Barouset Layden. His father was a well-known football coach who died in a automobile accident in 1948.
Thomas attended Adamson High School, and then the University of Texas, majoring in geology. In February 1943, he enlisted in the USAAC's Aviation Cadet program. He graduated from the course, and was awarded his pilot's wings and a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1943. He then received additional training in the P-47 aircraft.
In December 1944, he was assigned to the 395th Fighter Squadron of the 368th Fighter Group. His unit was based in Metz, France. From here, his unit flew combat mission for close support of the ground troops. Their missions concentrated on railway lines, rolling stock, armored vehicles, and gun positions.
On March 27, 1945, Lt. Layden was part of a force attacking armored columns in the vicinity of Geissen, Germany. Flak was considerably heavy that day, and although no one heard any distress call, when the mission returned to base, Lt. Layden's aircraft was not among them. He was declared MIA on March 27, 1945.
But part of his fate is known. Horst Jeckel, an amateur investigator of WWII aircraft crashes relates a story of a P-47 that crashed that day near a village. One witness stated a plane had crashed, and he observed a man walking away from what appeared to be a parachute. Two small boys (at the time) reported seeing and briefly talking to a man dressed "in military clothes, speaking no German." They notified the German troops nearby, who soon took the young man into custody. They informed the boys that this was an American pilot, and they would take him to interrogation at their base.
The area was liberated the next day, and Lt. Layden's body was found. But a new mystery confronted the finders. Was he killed in one of the many skirmishes that took place in the area? Or did the Germans kill him to avoid having a prisoner? The answer is not known, but Lt. Laden was declared dead on March 28, 1945, and subsequently buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery at Margraten. He lies in Plot C, Row 20, Grave 19.
Lieutenant Layden was flying P-47D #42-29126, no name, when apparently shot down by flak. Missing Air Crew Report 13621 applies.
The archives of the 368th Fighter Group contains a photo of Layden posing with P-47D #44-33221, "Slick Chick." But it is known that this aircraft was assigned to Lieutenant Colonel Frank Perego, the 368th Fighter Group Commander. Photo perhaps taken as a personal souvenir?
In addition to the decorations and awards shown for Lt. Layden, the 395th Fighter Squadron received the Belgium Fourragere and was mentioned in dispatches in the Belgian Army Orders of the Day (a Belgian award for which there is no designated device.)