F-15Es from the 494th Fighter Squadron that took part in the flyover carried the names of the USAF airmen killed in a 1944 B-17G crash in Sheffield, England, during WWII. Air Force photo.
Several USAF and United Kingdom Royal Air Force aircraft on Friday flew over the site of a 1944 B-17G crash in Sheffield, England, thanks to decades of work by a local man who was a boy when he saw the Flying Fortress go down.
On Feb. 22, 1944, the B-17G, named Mi Amigo, was flying back to Chelveston after getting hit by anti-aircraft fire during a daylight raid in Denmark. The aircraft couldn’t make it, and began to go down near Sheffield. On the ground, 8-year-old Tony Foulds was with his friends in a schoolyard in Sheffield when the bomber broke through the clouds and began to come down toward the field.
Foulds and his friends saw the pilot waving—they thought it was a greeting, but now realize the pilot was trying to get the kids out of the way. The pilot circled back and pulled up, avoiding the boys on the field, and crashed into the trees while trying to climb. All 10 airmen aboard died.
“They could have saved themselves,” Foulds told The Associated Press. “I’ve put myself in their place many a time and thought if I was wanting to land and there were children on, I would think to myself, ‘Well, I’ll land and hope I don’t hit them.’”
Foulds told the AP that since the crash, he had been wracked by guilt.
“I can’t see anyone else ever doing what these lads did—giving their own lives for a foreigner,” he told the AP. “I killed these lads.”
In 1969, Foulds built a small memorial at the crash site and has maintained it ever since, visiting it as often as he could. As years went by, he dreamed about a flyover at his small memorial.
In January, the BBC picked up his story and began a Twitter campaign. The 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath got wind of the campaign and told Foulds on TV that he would get the flyover.
On Friday, the 75th anniversary of the crash, an MC-130J, CV-22, and four F-15Es from Lakenheath flew over the site, along with a KC-135 from nearby RAF Mildenhall, two RAF Eurofighter Typhoons from RAF Coningsby, and a C-47 Dakota from the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The nose of the F-15Es were painted with the names of the airmen killed in the crash, and they flew a “missing man” formation over the memorial.
“The gap in the formation is to honor and represent the missing Mi Amigo crew and honor the sacrifice they made on this very field 65 years ago today,” 48th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Will Marshall said during the ceremony.
“Thank you, I can’t believe all of this, this is unbelievable to me,” Foulds said after the flyover, according to the BBC. “That was worth waiting 66 years for.”