Suffolk airbases take part in moving tribute to Mi Amigo crew
- Credit: PA
Planes from two Suffolk airbases paid tribute to a fallen American air crew with a special anniversary flypast.
Aircraft from RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall took part in the flypast today to honour the crew of the ‘Mi Amigo’, which crashed in Endclife Park in Sheffield on February 22, 1944.
The crash claimed the lives of all ten crew members on board.
Thousands of people gathered in the park to see the United States Air Force (USAF) and RAF planes, which included F-15 Strike Eagles and a Typhoon, soar overhead.
MORE: Second flypast over East Anglia will honour Mi Amigo crash victimsThe aircraft then flew over the Cambridge American Cemetery, in Coton, just outside Cambridge, where three of the Mi Amigo crew are interred.
Wreaths were laid at the graves of the three American airmen – Staff Sergeant Harry W Estabrooks, Sergeant Maurice D Robbins and Sergeant Charles H Tuttle – and their headstones were dressed with sand from Omaha Beach in Normandy.
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An American and British flag was positioned by each of the three graves, along with a photograph of each crew member.
The seven other crew members who died have been repatriated.
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The flypast was arranged following a chance meeting between BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker and pensioner Tony Foulds at Endcliffe Park in January.
Mr Foulds, who is now 82, was just a boy when he witnessed the B-17 Flying Fortress, nicknamed Mi Amigo, crash in the park 75 years ago.
The pensioner believes that the pilot had deliberately steered away from him and his friends, and has dedicated decades of his life to looking after a memorial to the men in the park.
MORE: Look to the skies on February 22’ - Tony gets flypast to honour US airmenAn emotional Mr Foulds said: “It’s taken 75 years for them to be remembered and what a day, what a day to remember them.”
He said he has further plans for the 75th anniversary, including flying over the memorial himself and visiting the three graves in Cambridgeshire.
Megan Leo, whose cousin, Melchor Hernanadez, died in the crash, said her family did not want Mr Foulds to blame himself.
“I don’t want him to feel guilty and don’t think my family would want him to feel guilty,” she said.
Television presenter Walker, who is currently in Tanzania preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for Comic Relief, told Mr Foulds on BBC Breakfast: “The last six weeks have been remarkable from my point of view.
“I know you jokingly asked everybody for a tenner who are there at the park today, but it’s not about the money, it’s never been about you.
“Tony, it’s always been about those 10 men who you think saved your life 75 years ago.”
The ceremony at the Cambridge American Cemetery was attended by local Royal British Legion members, who had the wreaths specially made after they were contacted by a branch in Sheffield.
Kevin Swann, secretary of the Sawston and Pampisford branch in Cambridgeshire, said: “It’s a fitting tribute to the men but it’s also paid tribute to all who lost their lives and are buried on this site, and to the 1.6million American service personnel that were over in this country during the Second World War.”