Veterans

July 23, 2012

United Kingdom’s ‘Friendly Invasion’ 70 years on

Tags:
by SSgt. Megan P. Lyon
RAF Lakenheath, England

Col. Mark Ciero, the 48th Fighter Wing vice commander, lays a wreath at the 388th Bombardment Group memorial at Coney Weston, England, July 14, 2012. The memorial was re-dedicated to the airmen who lost their lives while serving in the 388th BG at Knettishall Airfield, England.

During his childhood, Clive Stevens would gaze up in awe at a small B-17 Flying Fortress model that sat on top of a bookcase in his home.

“It obviously gave me a deep-rooted interest in the airplane,” said Stevens.

Airmen from RAF Lakenheath, England, salute the last active B-17 Flying Fortress in Europe as it flies over the former Knettishall Airfield on July 14, 2012. The fly-over was part of the 388th Bombardment Group memorial re-dedication at Coney Weston, England.

Over the years, his fascination grew to include not only the U.S. aircraft but the entire 8th Air Force. The interest was so strong that the Wiltshire native moved halfway across England to airfield-heavy Suffolk in order to be closer to his passion.

“When you’re younger, you’re more interested in the hardware,” said Stevens. “Then you get a bit older; you still think the hardware is great, but what about the airmen and their stories?”

Now a U.S. Army Air Forces historian and 388th Bombardment Group Memorial Committee member, Stevens wants to ensure the airmen’s stories are not forgotten.

He was one of the driving forces behind the festival celebrating the 388th BG and the re-dedication of the memorial in Coney Weston on July 14, 2012. The day also marked the 70th anniversary of the first arrival of the Army Air Forces airmen based in Eastern England.

Surrounded by a convoy of World War II vehicles, more than 200 people watched as the memorial was re-dedicated to the airmen who lost their lives while serving at Knettishall Airfield.

Situated on top of the last remaining section of road that used to lead to the now demolished airfield’s headquarters, the memorial was originally dedicated in the 1980s. Recently, it had two new extensions added, each stone listing the names of 388th BG airmen lost during the war.

During its time in East Anglia, the 388th BG flew more than 300 combat missions over Europe and lost 91 aircraft. More than 800 men were taken as prisoners of war, 524 men were killed in action and two airmen are still listed as missing in action.

As the names of the dead were read during the ceremony, airmen from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, dressed in authentic World War II uniforms, drifted out of the woods to silently form up in front of the U.S., U.K. and Air Force flags in remembrance of those who sacrificed their lives.

The son of Col. Francis Henggeler, a B-17 pilot and 563rd Bombardment Squadron commander under the 388th BG, attended the ceremony.

The last active B-17 Flying Fortress in Europe performs a fly-over above the former Knettishall Airfield, England, July 14, 2012. The fly-over was part of the 388th Bombardment Group memorial re-dedication at Coney Weston, England.

“We are very thankful for so many of the people in Great Britain who are keeping the memory alive, whether it’s through the B-17, the military vehicles or the museum,” said Dick Henggeler.

Olivia Leydenfrost, the daughter of Robert Leidenfrost, also attended the ceremony. Her father was only 20 when he was stationed in England as a bombardier. He was sent on flying missions over Europe, including a humanitarian aid mission to the Dutch people.

“It’s an incredibly moving experience to see the incredibly warm relationship that still exists between the local British people and the Americans,” said Leydenfrost. “Keeping that legacy alive is absolutely magical. It’s something we need to preserve for the future.”

After the ceremony, attendees visited the former airfield, now returned to an agricultural state, to watch as the last active B-17 Flying Fortress in Europe performed a flyover before moving to the 388th BG museum.

To Dave Sarson, a 388th BG Memorial Committee member and museum curator, the day exemplified the U.S.-U.K. relationship.

“We appreciate all the help and all the volunteers,” he said. “We made some good friends.”

For MSgt. Joseph Schepers, the 48th Medical Group medical technician functional manager and one of the day’s head volunteers, his main motivation to be involved was the relationship between Americans who have, and still are, serving in the United Kingdom and the local people.

“You have the British people honoring the Americans (who) fought and died,” said Schepers. “To have the Air Force presence out here was great. The day was simply amazing.”

TSgt. Robert Leidenfrost was a bombardier with the 560th Squadron under the 388th Bombardment Group during World War II. The 388th BG memorial, which was re-dedicated at Coney Weston, England, July 14, 2012, is dedicated to the airmen who lost their lives while serving in the 388th BG at Knettishall Airfield.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Remains of Pearl Harbor victims raised for identification

The military July 27 exhumed more caskets containing the unidentified remains of USS Oklahoma crew members killed in the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency disinterred five coffins from four grave sites at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, where they have rested for decades. The work is...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SSgt. Whitney Stanfield

POW visits Pentagon tribute section, reminisces about hard times

Air Force photograph by SSgt. Whitney Stanfield Retired Col. Leon Ellis visits the Air Force prisoner of war tribute section in the Pentagon July 16, 2015. Ellis, a Vietnam War POW, admired a painting by Maxine McCaffrey. The p...
 
 
Air Force photo by Gina Randall

Optimism helped Vietnam vet survive as POW

Air Force photo by Gina Randall Retired Maj. Spike Nasmyth, speaks with airmen during a lunch July 8, 2015, at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England. Nasmyth spoke about how prisoners of war communicated with one another in the c...
 

 
Air Force photograph by Scott M. Ash

WWII Veteran, POW receives Presidential Unit Citation

Air Force photograph by Scott M. Ash Sen. John McCain and Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry O. Spencer congratulate 2nd Lt. John Pedevillano, a WWII Army Air Corps B-17 bombardier, during a ceremony in his honor, in Wash...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SSgt. Carlin Leslie

AF Vietnam veterans honored on Capitol Hill

Air Force photograph by SSgt. Carlin Leslie Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry O. Spencer, retired Air Force Col. Michael Brazelton, retired Air Force Col. William Driggers Jr., and the executive assistant to the chief ma...
 
 

Soldier missing from Korean War accounted for

The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced July 1 that the remains of a serviceman, missing from the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors. Army Sgt. Joseph M. Snock Jr. of Apollo, Pennsylvania, was buried July 6, in Arlington National Cemetery. In...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>