Elmer F. Haynes
Biography: Elmer Fayne Haynes, “Fayne”, was born on January 2, 1922, in Rutherford County, Tennessee. He was the son of James Monroe Haynes and Mattie Jane Russell and attended local schools through the grammar level. His enlistment record indicates he was working as some type of driver of a bus, truck, taxi or tractor, prior to the war.
In the fall of 1942, he married the former Eva Beatrice Crosslin, who was born in Bedford County, Tennessee and was the daughter of Rollie A. Crosslin and Lucy Jones.
Service Time: Fayne entered the service on December 23, 1942, at Camp Forrest, TN. After his basic training, he was assigned to Company B of the 612th Tank Destroyer Battalion, which shipped out from the New York port on April 7, 1944, and arrived at Greenock, Scotland, on the 15th. They landed in France with 3″ towed anti-tank guns, beginning on June 14, and were committed in the vicinity of Cerisy, fighting at Vire during the breakout in July and early August.
The 612th moved to Brittany and supported the siege and capture of Brest in late August and September and then shifted to Belgium in October and supported operations against the Siegfried Line until December. At the outbreak of Battle of the Bulge the unit history records the following:
“On the 17th of December, “B’ with the 1st Recon platoon attached, was detached from the 23rd Infantry Regiment, of the 2nd Infantry Division, and attached to the 99th Infantry Division, moved to the vicinity of Honsfeld, Belgium and took up positions of readiness. The full force of the enemy attack through the Ardennes struck the 1st and 2nd platoons of “B” and the 1st Recon platoon, from the Southwest with tanks and armored infantry”
In an interview from 2015, Fayne recalled being surprised by approaching enemy tanks. They were supposed to be in an area with no enemy activity so they did not even have their guns set up and probably set new records getting them ready to fire. Fayne was successful in taking out three of the enemy’s tanks, so he then loaded a high explosive shell into the gun and fired it into a group of Infantry that was approaching on the road.
He then heard an incoming artillery shell, which he said “sounded like it had his name on it” so he ran into the building where he had spent the night for cover. The shell hit right beside the door pushing him into the building and onto the floor. Shrapnel had hit him in the leg but surprisingly the wound wasn’t bleeding. He had so many layers of clothing, due to the cold, that a piece of cloth was pulled into the wound, stopping the bleeding. He had been smart enough to pack a leg bandage, which he quickly applied to the wound.
Additionally the history states that the enemy actions:
“resulted in the platoons being surrounded, with 3 officers and 110 men being reported as missing in action, and 1 officer and 18 men of 1st Recon platoon also missing in action.”
The area was overrun by the enemy and he was ordered by his Lieutenant to surrender along with approximately 29 other men. A enemy tank pulled up to them and it was though that the crew would be taking them prisoner. Instead, it opened fire on the men, supposedly killed them all. The shots started on the right and since Fayne was on far left, and he had time to drop flat on the ground. The bullets had miraculously all missed Fayne and as soon at the tank drove away, Fayne got up and walked away.
He then met up with another man from the 612th, T5 Edward L. Stegall, and the two men began looking for German Infantry that they believed were taking prisoners. As they walked done the street, Fayne heard a rifle crack and Stegall fell flat on his face. He had been shot, right in the heart. Fayne could see the Infantry troops that had shot his friend and he thought he would be shot as well. The enemy troops continued to track him but he was able to walk away from them and was ultimately able to join up with other men that were being taken prisoner.
They were all loaded on a train and taken to a cathedral with no pews or benches, only straw on the floor. He laid down and right next to him was a German soldier who had two blankets. The soldier covered Fayne with one of the blankets and they both slept there for the night. Fayne thought it was quite unusual but believed that this German was a very kind individual.
Fayne was ultimately taken to Stalag 11B Fallingbostel Prussia, which is a work camp in the Northern part of Germany. He would spend four months there in wooden barracks with no heat, experiencing freezing temperatures through much of the time. He was still nursing his wounds and after about 10 days, he had a British soldier help clean it out with only a bit of cold water. It took three months to heal but in the fourth month, they were marched 80 miles Northeast and even deeper into Germany. Fayne was offered a German field map and an American compass by another soldier who was hesitant to escape since the guards over the column were using shotguns. Fayne took the items and concealed them in his coat.
Fayne had devised a plan to escape from the Germans and he and friend, Staff Sergeant Paul E. Schuler, along with three other men, would work their way to the back of the column. When they stopped to rest, they would be the last men and then lay down flat while the column continued to walk, leaving them behind. As soon as they were out of sight, the men got up and quickly headed for the woods. Fayne pulled out his map and used the compass to navigate through the woods that he said was as thick as a jungle.
The five men negotiated 80 miles of forest and enemy troops to finally meet up with a unit of British soldiers that would provide them with food. They had traveled the entire distance with nothing to eat. Fayne relates in his interview that he believes the Holy Spirit was with him and directed him in the way he should go.
After returning to the U.S., he made his home in Murfreesboro and he and his brothers started a candy business, Haynes Brothers Candy Company. During the peak of their success, they were purchasing 25,000 pounds of chocolate at a time from the Hershey Chocolate Company. They were also the first to provide a refrigerated candy service and provided thousands of pounds of candy for events and parades. Fayne retired after 54-1/2 years in the candy business and in the year 2000, he went looking to buy a large flag to honor his country. Since none were available locally, Fayne decided to open his own flag store, which included a small museum documenting his time in the military. Fayne’s flags and flag poles found homes all over the community including local businesses, schools, municipal buildings and residences. He only sold flags made proudly in the U.S.A.
Fayne didn’t talk about the war for 20 years and had kept the map and compass, that helped them find allied troops after their escape, in a drawer at his home. On a slightly funny note, Fayne attended his first reunion of the 612th ten years after the war. Some of the members of the unit believed he had been killed during the Battle of the Bulge until one of the men said that he was running a big candy business over in Murfreesboro. They got him on the phone and he went down to meet them.
Fayne and Beatrice were married for 70 years and had four children, Don, Melvin, Janice and Anita. In addition to his time with the candy business, he was also a partner in the Haynes Brothers Lumber Company and a lifelong member of the North Boulevard Church of Christ. Fayne passed away on June 18, 2016, and was buried in the Hazel Cemetery in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. In addition to Fayne, two of his brothers also served in the military. We want to thank Find A Grave contributors Allen Minix and Brent Nimmo for the use of the elder Fayne photo and the grave marker photo respectively.
You can see the entire interview with Fayne on YouTube. It was produced by Clint Smart and is about 27 minutes long. It’s well worth a look. You can see it here.