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Annual Memorial Day Service Commemorates WWII Air Crash

VPR/Steve Zind

There were Memorial Day events around the state Monday to honor members of the military who died while serving the country. One annual event in Randolph takes place near the spot where a World War II bomber crashed 70 years ago.

On June 27, 1943 a B-17 Flying Fortress fell from the sky and crashed on a Randolph hillside.  The plane was flying to Bangor, Maine, before heading on to the war in Europe.  Seven crew members managed to parachute to safety, but three others died.  

In 1991, a marker was placed near the site and ever since then a Memorial Day service has been held there.  About 100 people attended this year’s ceremony.  Among the speakers was a local resident who survived another World War II era plane crash. 

90 year-old Azel Hall was a gunner on a B-29 in the Pacific.  Several of Hall’s fellow crew members perished in the crash.  Hall credits his survival to Providence.  He says the idea that he was fortunate enough to live stuck with him even after he returned home to Randolph to open a garage which he operated for many years. 

“I always felt that I owed somebody something, somewhere," Hall explained to the crowd. " So, every day in the garage we would do something for somebody for nothing.  I’ve always thought in my life ever since that it doesn’t do any harm to do a little something for somebody.”

Local resident Nan Gwin was among those who came to listen to Hall’s recollections. Gwin has attended every years since the first service in 1991.  I come here to honor my father, my former husband, my maternal grandfather and my paternal grandfather.  I think that honoring our veterans should be part of who we are,” Gwin said.

After the prayers and remembrances, people stayed for a barbeque, enjoying the first fair day after a stretch of cold, rainy weather.  A few took the short hike to the place in the woods where on another fair day in June of 1943, three airmen lost their lives serving their country.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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