Kort før krigens afslutning, den 11 marts 1945, styrtede en amerikansk Mustangjager ned lidt nord for Øster Starup. Den amerikanske jager indgik i en formation, som fra Hamborg gik op over Jylland og var nu på vej, for at flyve hjem til Duxford Airbase i England. Der var skyer over Jylland op til 2000 fod. Formationen fløj over skyerne i 7000 fods højde, da formationen var over Herning, meldte Jack Hodges kl. 13.30 at han havde problemer med flyets kølesystem, han fik besked på at forlade formationen og 1. Lt. Hubert Davids blev befalet at eskortere ham. Først besluttede Hodges at forsøge at nå basen i England med en kurs 220 grader for at blive tæt på kysten til turen over Nordsøen. Kort før Hodges nåede Vestkysten, indså han at det ville være umuligt at nå England, og tog en 90 graders vending med Sverige som mål. Motoren gik nu ujævnt og en tyk røg kom ud af udstødningen og Hodges kunne ikke holde højde på maskinen. Efter omkring 10 minutter var maskinen under 3000 fod, og Hodges ønskede at springe ud med faldskærm. Det var overskyet op til 2000 fod og de kunne ikke se, om de var over land eller vand, sektionslederen, som havde fulgt dem over radioen, beordrede Hodges til at tage kurs 270 grader og blive i flyet så længe som muligt. Hodges var nu under 2000 fod. Davids kaldte Hodges og bad ham springe ud, men fik ikke noget svar. Hodges fly blev set fra jorden kommende ud af skyerne, med Hodges slæbende efter det. Åbenbart havde han udløst sin faldskærm for tidligt, så den var blevet fanget af haleroret. Kort før han ramte jorden, var han kommet fri af flyet, da han blev fanget af et levende hegn. Han levede en kort tid efter styrtet. Lt. Davids dykkede ud af skyerne til 800 fod og cirklede over stedet, hvor Hodges var styrtet, men sigtbarheden var dårlig og han observerede hverken Hodges eller hans fly. 1 fod er 0,3048 meter Kilde: Missing air crew report. USAF.
Amerikansk Mustang P51 benyttedes i stor stil til rekognoscering og bombeeskorte under togterne over Tyskland. Det var bl.a. 31 Mustang fly der deltog som eskorte under bombningen af Slellhuset i København. Jacks maskine havde kælenavnet: “Windy City Mama”.
Flere øjenvidner så nedstyrtningen, bl.a. Da flere folk kom til stede, sørgede de for at piloten blev ført til Øster Starup kirkes kapel, da tyskerne senere kom til stede, undlod de at kræve liget udleveret. Tyskerne tillod begravelsen på Øster Starup kirkegård, under forudsætning af, at der ikke blev demonstreret. Nogle dage senere d. 13. marts, blev piloten begravet, svøbt i sin hvide silkefaldskærm, på Øster Starup kirkegård, under en meget stor deltagelse fra egnens beboere, skønt nogle var bange for at deltage, da de frygtede, at tyskerne skulle opfatte det som en provokation. Der gik også rygter om, at der havde været to personer ombord, og at tyskerne havde haft “spioner” til begravelsen for evt. at finde “den anden person.”
Efter befrielsen sattes en sten på graven med følgende indskrift: Flyver Jack D. Hodge F. 20.05.1921 i S.Carolina U.S.A. D. 11.03.1945 i Starup Falden for sit land og for vort
I årene efter krigen har Jack D. Hodges familie flere gange besøgt graven, ligesom der er holdt brevkontakt med danske familier i sognet. Senest har 5 amerikanske familiemedlemmer, besøgt Øster Starup i forbindelse med en mindehøjtidelighed i 2005 ved 60 året for nedskydningen, der var da også deltagelse fra den Amerikanske Ambassade i Danmark. Der er fra amerikansk side aldrig udtrykt ønske om at få liget ført til USA, som det er sket mange andre steder, for som et familiemedlem har udtrykt det: “Han hviler blandt venner.” Jacks mor har senere givet et dåbsfad til Øster Starup kirke som tak for mindesmærket over deres alt for tidligt døde søn.
Jack D. Hodge, født i South Carolina, var 23 år, da hans fly styrtede ned, hjemme i USA var han forlovet med Mary, hun blev senere gift med Jacks bror Douglas. I 1947 besøgte Jacks mor Nelly, Douglas og Mary graven.
Nedenstående er hentet fra Clemson Corps. Indeholder bl.a. et referat fra begravelsen og af pastor Gamborg Andersens prædiken Jack Dupre Hodge War: World War II Class: 1944 Major: Electrical Engineering Home Town: Alcolu, South Carolina Service: Army Air Forces Rank: First Lieutenant Unit: 83rd Fighter Squadron, 78th Fighter Group Date of Death: March 11, 1945 Details of Death: Killed in Action in a P-51 crash in Denmark Awarda and Citations: Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with 3 Oak Clusters Last Known Activity: Jack Dupree Hodge was born on March 20, 1921 in Alcou, South Carolina. After he graduated from high school, he moved to Clemson and enrolled in the electrical engineering program in 1940. After the war began, he was eager to join the military. In late 1943, he dropped out of college and was selected for the aviation cadet program. After completing basic and advanced flight training, he was commissioned and awarded his wings. He then went on to receive training in single-engine fighter aircraft. He deployed to England in late 1944, and was assigned to the 78th Fighter Group at Duxford, flying missions with the 83rd Fighter Squadron. He had flown approximately 16 missions when, on March 11, 1945, he was participating in bomber escort duty on a raid on Hamburg, Germany. As the escort crossed the Danish coast over Herning in the Jylland Peninsula, he reported to his wingman that his aircraft was losing coolant, and the engine was overheating. He began a return flight to England, but soon decided to try for Sweden instead. The engine began running rough, and Hodge could not maintain altitude. His wingman encourage him to bail out, but Hodge stayed with the aircraft. He entered an undercast at 3,000 feet, and his wingman lost sight of him. Observers on the ground state he emerged from the undercast, trailing the aircraft. It appears he bailed out, but his parachute fouled on the tail. He was swept off by hitting a hedgerow just before the aircraft crashed near Oster Starup. A doctor was called, but Hodge only lived about 20 minutes. He was taken to Oster Starup Church, and the Wermacht notified. They gave permission to hold a Christian funeral, and the Danes complied. The coffin, covered with an American flag, was carried to the grave by members of the parish council. Vicar S. Gambourg-Andersen performed the graveside service. After the war, Hodge’s mother decided he should remain there, and donated a baptismal font to the church for their kindness. On March 11, 2005, a memorial ceremony was held at the grave. Wreaths were laid by the American Embassy, the Danish Home Guard, and the Oster Starup Parish Vestry. Approximately 100 locals, as well as Lt. Hodge’s family, attended. After the ceremony, the Home Guard Air Force Orchestra presented a concert in the church. Personal Remembrance and Tributes: – The Danes do not forget 83rd Fighter Squadron pilot, Lt. Hubert Bill Davis (center) is pictured with other members of the 83rd Fighter Group. On March 11, Davis was on a mission to Hamburg when he was ordered to escort back to base another 83rd FS pilot (Lt. Jack Hodge) who had a leak in the coolant system. The two set course for England, but Hodge decided he wouldn’t make it that far and turned north towards Sweden. His plane crashed over Starup, Denmark. He was taken care of by local people but succumbed to his wounds shortly after. The locals negotiated with the Wehrmacht and were given permission to give Hodge a Christian funeral in Starup cemetery. By BRETT McLAUGHLIN The Journal Jack Hodge was a typical American boy. He and Albert Henry first met when Hodge moved to Clemson, and they attended the same school. Hodge’s uncle was a teacher in Clemson, and the newcomer had no trouble settling in, making friends and impressing the girls. By his senior year, he was voted handsomest boy in the class. Henry remembers his friendship with Hodge and how, after mhigh school, they both enrolled at Clemson University. Henry would finish. His friend would not. Having been a boy in the depression and a teenager at the beginning of World War II, Jack was an idealist,Henry remembered. He was mature and serious-minded, if not a little melancholy. The world did plunge into war and Jack, like many others, wanted to serve his country and mankind. He dropped out of Clemson and joined the Army Air Forces. The inhabitants of Starup, a rural hamlet in southern Denmark, about 40 miles from the North Sea, have a special kindred feeling of both sympathy and gratitude for Americans. These feelings are rooted in the events of a single day as the war drew to a close. First Lt. Jack D. Hodge, 23, having achieved an exemplary record in the U. S. Army Air Forces, was killed in action over Starup, Denmark, on March 11, 1945. As his fighter plane spun out of the sky, victimized by a coolant leak, Hodge bailed out. His chute became caught on the wing and he went down with the plane, critically wounded. Local journalist Catherine Olsen would chronicle and later share with Hodge’s uncle the events of the next two days, days that changed Starup forever. Excerpts of her story, passed on to Hodge’s old friend Albert Henry, are as follows: Many people went out to the place of the accident where the fighter plane lay, a burned wreck. Monday, Jack D. Hodge was laid in a coffin. Pastor Gamborg Andersen provided the necessary (arrangements). The parachute was spread over the inside of the coffin and the young airman lay there in his uniform with a peaceful and beautiful expression on his face. The followers sang (Always Cheerful Where You Are Going), which was the famed underground rally song during the war. The priest said The Lord’s Prayer after which the coffin was carried into the church and stood on a black cloth with silver edges In the church yard a grave had been chosen for the young airman, lying in the open, facing west and here he was put to rest on (the)13th (of) March. The 13th (of) March arrived with lovely weather. From early in the morning, wreaths, decorations and flowers were sent from all who wished to honour our young friend who had fallen in the cause of freedom and in our cause. Never has such a large following been seen in Starup church. The funeral service was to be at 2 pm, but long before that the seats and standing room were taken and people stood all the way to the Armoury. After the hymn How Wonderful It Is To go to the Sweet Harbor of Heaven,Pastor Anderson preached a beautiful and moving sermon in memory of the young airman. He said amongst other things JLet us also look at the coming spring, the song of the larks, the fresh shoots, the buds, which are coming out. This is how the Disciples thought and, instead, Jesus spoke of death. Many spirits will be destroyed and become earth again. Many migrating birds will not return. As it is in nature, so it is in the world. Many die and we become indifferent. The spring reminds our Lord of death; today death strikes the young and healthy people. Let us as Danes and Christians bow our knee to the majesty of death. We are doing so today when this young stranger is lying here; we only know his name, but we know that he comes from a friendly nation. May this young man’s death bear fruit. He did his duty; may he bring the good in our people to resurrection. This is the first time that the result of this has been swept into our parish and we ask God that it will be the last. Let us remember that we may also be called upon to do our duty and hold our young friend name and memory in high esteem and honour. Less than two months later, on May 7, Germany would surrender to Allied Forces in Western Europe. The war end was at hand, but the Danes would never forget. Albert Henry of Clemson contributed to this story. Under bombetogtet mod Hamborg deltog Jack i “dogfight” og nedskød 2 tyske fly. Som det fremgår af “Citation” fra 1946. For sin indsats modtog han posthumt the Distinguished Flying Cross