Veterans

February 27, 2019
 

Mi Amigo flypast, memorial service touches millions

Tech Sgt. Aaron Thomasson
Sheffield, England

In a time of war, it is often true that a brief life burns brightly.

For many of the 416,800 Americans who sacrificed their lives for freedom during World War II, their brief moments are known as part of a greater tide of courage that freed Western Europe of genocidal oppression. For the ten men of the Mi Amigo, however, their defining moment is remembered forever by the city of Sheffield.

Seventy-five years ago, on Feb. 22, 1944, a B-17 Flying Fortress, call sign Mi Amigo, and its crew were returning from Nazi positions in the vicinity of Aalborg, Denmark.

Heavily damaged by Luftwaffe fighters, Mi Amigo lost engine power over Sheffield. The pilot, 1st Lieutenant John G. Kriegshauser, urgently looked for a place to land the damaged plane. The wide-open fields of Endcliffe Park presented the best emergency landing area, but as the plane dropped rapidly, the crew saw that the park’s fields were full of children playing soccer.

Faced with a split-second decision, Kriegshauser and his crew chose to save the lives of those on the ground and landed the plane in a wooded area just past the edge of the park’s open spaces. The crash claimed the lives of all 10 members of the Mi Amigo crew. For eight-year-old boy Tony Foulds, who was playing in the park that day, it was a life-changing event.

“If it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t be here with my family,” said Foulds, now 82. “It’s more than bravery, what they did. They saved me, and I mean saved me.”

Foulds has spent the rest of his life unceasingly caring for a small memorial to the crew in the woods of Endcliffe Park. 75 years after the crash, the 10 crewmen of the Mi Amigo received the kind of public recognition Foulds always wanted for them.

On Feb. 22, 2019, aircraft from the U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force roared overhead for a dramatic ceremony that capped off a weeks-long social media campaign asking for recognition of the bomber’s crew, started when BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker met Foulds during a walk in Endcliffe Park and relayed his story on the popular morning show. In a massive show of support and respect, more than 10,000 people from Sheffield and beyond gathered in that same park as the Air Force responded to the millions who campaigned to #GetTonyAFlypast.

Millions more watched online as a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 100th Air Refueling Wing, a CV-22 Osprey and MC-130J Commando II from the 352nd Special Operations Wing, and four F-15E Strike Eagles from the 48th Fighter Wing, accompanied by a RAF Dakota and two Typhoons, generated palpable emotion among the crowd as they flew low overhead – a fitting tribute not only to the heroes of the Mi Amigo, but to all U.S. forces who died valiantly on foreign soil. Sitting in the center was Foulds, wiping away tears and waving with both hands to the crowd.

Two days later in St. Augustine’s Church, just minutes away from the memorial by foot, a more intimate ceremony was held. The Royal Air Force Association has held this ceremony every year, on the Sunday closest to Feb. 22, in recognition of the crew’s sacrifice. Every year, they are joined by men and women from nearby air bases; all members of the U.S. military serving overseas, just as their comrades had 75 years prior.

Members of the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Army render a salute to the Mi Amigo memorial at Sheffield, United Kingdom, Feb. 24, 2019. This year’s annual memorial service was accompanied by a United States Air Force and Royal Air Force flypast in Endcliffe Park two days prior, where thousands of U.K. residents honored the memory of ten fallen U.S. Airmen who died when their war-crippled B-17 Flying Fortress crash landed to avoid killing residents and nearby children.

Airman First Class Joshua Holsing, a member of the 501st Combat Support Wing Honor Guard at RAF Alconbury, bore a daunting responsibility during the ceremony. He presented an American flag, flown in one of the F-15Es during the 75th anniversary flypast, to Reverend Gordon Unsworth, the chaplain of RAFA’s Sheffield branch. It was a time-honored gesture of appreciation for keeping the memory of the crew alive each year.

“It was very humbling,” said Holsing. “Just thinking about the sacrifices that those men made and seeing how willing they were to give their all, just to save a few, even though they didn’t know those that they did save.”

The flag will be raised in remembrance each year in Endcliffe Park on a newly dedicated flagpole, forever marking the anniversary. Though it flies over the ground of the Mi Amigo crew, the flag honors an even larger group of heroes. It represents a solemn tribute to each U.S. military member who fought and died in World War II; those whose defining moments are known and honored and those who are still yet to be told.

U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Joshua Holsing salutes after presenting the American flag to Reverend Gordon Unsworth at St. Augustine’s Church in Sheffield, United Kingdom, Feb. 24.

“We are humbled and grateful that our fallen comrades’ memory lives on in your city,” read Maj. Jordan Mugg, RAF Menwith Hill Operations Squadron Director of Operations, as the flag was brought forward. “You treat our service members that have passed with the same honor and respect as your own citizens, and we are continually appreciative of the special relationship our countries share, grounded by traditions and heritage.”

For more information on the Mi Amigo memorial, go to https://www.dvidshub.net/feature/MiAmigo75thAnniversaryFlyover
 

U.S. Air Force Col. James Smith, RAF Menwith Hill Air Force Element commander, prepares to lay a wreath in honor of the Mi Amigo crewmen at Sheffield, United Kingdom, Feb. 24, 2019.

 

U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Joshua Holsing cradles the American flag while marching down the aisle of St. Augustine’s church in Sheffield, United Kingdom, Feb. 24.

 

This memorial to the crew of the Mi Amigo rests in Endliffe Park, Sheffield, United Kingdom, where it has been tended by Tony Foulds for more than 60 years.

 

A member of the Royal Air Force Association bows his head during a benediction for the crew of the Mi Amigo in St. Augustine’s Church, Sheffield, United Kingdom, Feb. 24, 2019.

 

Royal Air Force Lakenheath 494th Fighter Squadron pilots prepare to participate in the MiAmigo 75th anniversary flyover, RAF Lakenheath, England, Feb. 22, 2019. The eight Airmen will fly four F-15E Strike Eagles painted with the names of the men who sacrificed their lives at Endcliffe Park, England in 1944.

 

Royal Air Force Lakenheath 494th Fighter Squadron pilots prepare to participate in the MiAmigo 75th anniversary flyover, RAF Lakenheath, England, Feb. 22, 2019.

 

Royal Air Force Lakenheath 494th Fighter Squadron pilots prepare to participate in the MiAmigo 75th anniversary flyover, RAF Lakenheath, England, Feb. 22, 2019.




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