US flying aces visit old airfield
FOUR kings of the sky were at an old Suffolk war-time airbase as they began a nostalgic tour of their old stamping grounds. The four American flying aces were at Leiston airfield yesterday where two of their number were based during World War II.
FOUR kings of the sky were at an old Suffolk war-time airbase as they began a nostalgic tour of their old stamping grounds.
The four American flying aces were at Leiston airfield yesterday where two of their number were based during World War II.
Today the pilots are due to visit Halesworth and Martlesham.
It is a journey full of poignant memories for the four, who lost many friends and comrades in the war.
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Bud Anderson and John Kirla, who were based at Leiston during the war, were joined by Bob Frisch, who was based near Duxford, and Clinton Burdick, who served at Martlesham.
For Mr Kirla, it was an emotional return to Leiston airfield after 59 years. The prospect of coming back before now had been too painful.
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"It almost felt like coming home really. We had such an intense time here," he said.
"I never wanted to come back because it was too hard – we lost too many good men. They said don't make friends, but what are you going to do?" he explained.
"I lost several of my buddies and figured I would never come back."
Clinton Burdick, who is believed to be unique in that he is the son of a World War I flying ace, has revisited England on many occasions.
He said: "This is where it happened, so you come back to see what it looks like now. We were all very young, 19 or 20, and now we are all old and retired. But it's nice to come back and see what it was like.
"We are a dying breed and most of the people are in their middle 80s. I'm 79. I'm probably one of the youngest people here."
The men, now in their seventies and eighties, are taking part in a visit organised by the Northern California Friends of Fighter Aces organisation.
They are due to talk about their experiences in war-time England at a symposium to be held at Duxford on Friday night, on the eve of the air show.