Defense

August 24, 2012

Ceremony marks 70th anniversary of Eighth Air Force

Tags:
SSgt. Brian Stives
Grafton Underwood, England
Air Force photograph by SSgt. Brian Stives
Councilor James Hakewill, the Mayor of Kettering Borough, greets Maj. Gen. Stephen Wilson, Eighth Air Force commander, as he enters Boughton House Aug. 17. The day marked the 70th anniversary of the first Eighth Air Force bombers, from the 97th Bombardment Group (Heavy), participating in World War II that launched from Grafton Underwood. Col. Frank Armstrong, 97th BG commander, and the 340th Bomb Squadron commander Maj. Paul Tibbets (who later flew the Enola Gay to Hiroshima, Japan, on the first atomic bomb mission) piloted the lead aircraft of the group, Butcher Shop. In the leading aircraft of the second flight, Yankee Doodle, flew Gen. Ira C. Eaker, the commanding general of the VIII Bomber Command.

U.S. and Royal Air Force leadership; local community leaders from Kettering, United Kingdom; and veterans marked the 70th anniversary of the first 8th Air Force bombers participating in World War II with a ceremony at Boughton House and a memorial service at Grafton Underwood Aug. 17.

At Boughton House 70 years ago, the Duke of Buccleuch loaned part of his 10,000-acre estate to the United States Army Air Forces, who built up Grafton Underwood Airfield on the grounds.

Leadership in attendance included Maj. Gen. Stephen Wilson, 8th Air Force commander; RAF Air Commodore R.L. Atherton, representing the U.K. Ministry of Defence; Air Chief Marshall Sir Stephen Dalton, RAF Chief of Air Staff; and Col. Brian Kelly, 501st Combat Support Wing commander;
“Our first heavy bomber air combat mission took place at this very spot 70 years ago today,” said Wilson, during his remarks to more than 200 people in attendance. “Twelve B-17s departed Grafton Underwood, escorted by RAF Spitfires, to strike targets in occupied France. General Ira Eaker, my predecessor as the Commander of VIII Bomber Command, flew on the first mission himself. The bombing results were good and the formation only took minor damage. It was a solid start, and the press swooned at the story, but we knew we had a long way to go. That December, General Eaker told Fleet Street reporters in London, still hungry for good news, ‘We won’t do much talking until we’ve done more fighting. After we’ve gone, we hope you’ll be glad we came.’”

Maj. Gen. Stephen Wilson, Eighth Air Force commander, speaks to a crowd of more than 200, including Royal Air Force Air Commodore R.L. Atherton, representing the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence and Air Chief Marshall Sir Stephen Dalton, RAF Chief of Air Staff; Col. Brian Kelly, 501st Combat Support Wing commander; local community leaders from Kettering, United Kingdom; and veterans at Boughton House Aug. 17.

Wilson talked about how RAF Bomber Command and VIII Bomber Command worked hand-in-hand striking at the heart of Germany’s war-making capability with “around the clock – RAF Bomber Command at night, Eighth Air Force by day” bombings. They grew into the nickname “The Mighty Eighth” – with more than 350,000 Americans serving in England and flying more than 620,000 sorties from August 1942 to May 1945.

“Comprised of nearly 50 bomber groups and 20 fighter groups, the Eighth Air Force sent aloft the greatest air armada in history,” said Wilson. “I doubt we’ll ever see anything like it again. As many as 1,000 bomber and 1,000 fighter aircraft flew in a single maximum effort mission. A mission of this magnitude put more than 11,000 men in the air at one time. Unfortunately, not all of them made the return trip home.”

Early on, aircrew losses were at a catastrophic 20 percent per mission. The chances of a crew making it to 25 missions were virtually nonexistent. Occasionally, one crew, or even just one person, would make it to the 25-mission mark.

A memorial sits near Grafton Underwood Airfield. The memorial honors the Eighth Air Force Airmen stationed at Grafton Underwood during World War II.

“More than 26,000 Mighty Eighth airmen made the ultimate sacrifice for our common cause. Another 28,000 became prisoners of war,” said Wilson. ‘Let me try to put this number in context. If we started the clock from 8th Air Force’s inception in 1942 to the end of the war in Europe, we lost two Mighty Eighth airmen every hour of every day, one killed and one became a prisoner of war, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year for almost three years.”

The partnership with the RAF has continued for 70 years and Wilson addressed the brotherhood that has formed.

“Eighth Air Force has continued the tradition of delivering strategic airpower for 70 years,” he said. “Like our forefathers of World War II, Eighth Air Force aircrews have never been turned back from a target by the enemy. The weather has turned us back and we have been recalled, but enemy action – fighters or flack – never turned the airmen of The Mighty Eighth away from our target. Not in any conflict since our inception, from world War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, and most recently, Libya. And in almost every conflict, we have continued our remarkable relationship – fighting shoulder-to-shoulder alongside our trusted wingmen from the RAF. Over the years, it has become hard to find an 8th Air Force bomber crew that hasn’t shared a drink with their RAF brethren in some crowded bar on the far side of the world.”
“Thank you for keeping our story alive – Britain’s and America’s extraordinary story – where two nations with a remarkable relationship stood shoulder-to-shoulder against tyranny and aggression, a story of epic resolve in the life-and-death struggle over the fate of the free world, an incredible story kept alive in the hearts and minds of our people,” said Wilson.

Maj. Gen. Stephen Wilson, Eighth Air Force commander, and A1C Cody Lemon, 423rd Medical Squadron, pay their respects to Eighth Air Force airmen at the memorial near Grafton Underwood Aug. 17. The day marked the 70th anniversary of the first Eighth Air Force bombers, from the 97th Bombardment Group (Heavy), participating in World War II that launched from Grafton Underwood.

The event at Boughton House was followed by a wreath-laying service near the 8th Air Force memorial at Grafton Underwood.




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


 
 

 

Headlines October 20, 2014

News: Navy grounds ‘Top Guns’ - The F/A-18s needs spare parts and in too many cases they’re being taken from brand new jets. This is a risk to national security and pilots’ lives.   Business: Boeing seeks revised schedule for U.S. aerial tanker - Boeing is revising its master schedule for developing the new U.S. Air Force...
 
 

News Briefs October 20, 2014

New military medical team to help with Ebola in U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the military to prepare and train a 30-member medical support team that could provide short-term help to civilian health professionals if there are more Ebola cases in the United States. His spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, says the team...
 
 

Dragon ‘fires up’ for flight

The Air Force and NATO are undergoing a cooperative development effort to upgrade the avionics and cockpit displays of AWACS aircraft belonging to the 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and the NATO E-3 Sentrys from Geilenkirchen, Germany. The Diminishing Manufacturing Sources Replacement of Avionics for Global Operations and Navigation, otherwise...
 

 
Boeing photographs

Boeing-built X-37B successfully completes third flight

Unmanned spacecraft concludes record-setting 674-day mission   Boeing photograph A third mission of the Boeing-built X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle was completed on Oct. 17, 2014, when it landed and was recovered at Vandenberg...
 
 

Boeing concludes commercial crew space act agreement for CST-100/Atlas V

Boeing has successfully completed the final milestone of its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability Space Act Agreement with NASA. The work and testing completed under the agreement resulted in significant maturation of Boeing’s crew transportation system, including the CST-100 spacecraft and Atlas V rocket. NASA in July approved the Critical Design Review Board milestone for Boeing’...
 
 

AF to release small business research solicitations

The Air Force Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer program office is set to release its fiscal year 2015 list of topics Oct. 22, on the SBIR/STTR website.  Small businesses and research institutions with expertise to address the topics’ technology challenges are encouraged to submit proposals. During 2014, the Defense Department SBIR...
 




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=""> <strike> <strong>