Earlier this year, the BBC got in contact with the U.S. Embassy in London to share an amazing story. Journalist Dan Walker was out walking his dog in his local park in Sheffield, England, when he struck up a conversation with an inspiring elderly man called Tony Foulds. Tony told him the story of ten young American airmen who had laid down their lives in the park when he was just a young boy.
On February 22, 1944, the crew of the B-17 “Mi Amigo,” had come under heavy Nazi fire near Denmark. With the plane severely damaged, the ten-man crew struggled to return to their English airbase. Losing altitude over Sheffield, the pilot Lt. Kriegshauser circled around one of the city parks hoping to land safely. But when he saw a group of children playing in the park, he averted landing and instead crashed into a wooded area of the park. The children were spared, but none of the men aboard the “Mi Amigo” survived.
Tony was one of those children playing in the field that day and he never forgot the sacrifice the “Mi Amigo” crew made for him and his friends. In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Tony said, “I can’t see anyone else ever doing what these lads did – giving their own lives for a foreigner.” For the last 75 years, Tony has gone to the park every single day to look after a memorial to the Mi Amigo crew and tell their story to anyone who passes by.
This year, after a lifetime commemorating the Mi Amigo heroes, Tony wanted to do something really special to commemorate the 75th anniversary of their deaths. As soon as the BBC told us Tony’s story, the U.S. Embassy joined forces with the U.S. Air Force and the Royal Air Force to make his wish come true. Together, American and British airmen performed a flyover in Sheffield Park as 12,000 Brits gathered together with Tony to pay tribute to the incredible sacrifice our heroes made.
Missouri Governor Mike Parson also presented a proclamation commending 82-year-old Tony Foulds. Governor Parson said, “Lt. Kriegshauser was only 23-years-old but had already flown 15 missions to defeat the Nazis and free people from tyranny. He and his crew acted selflessly to save innocent lives; Tony Foulds has acted nobly to preserve their tremendous legacy.” The British Ambassador to the United States Kim Darroch said, “The courage of those 10 men on that day will be remembered – and not just by the children in the park whose lives were spared, but by the whole of the United Kingdom who will always be grateful for their sacrifice.”
For me, what Tony’s story showed was just how deep a bond was forged between America and Britain during the war. Almost every town and village in the United Kingdom has a story to tell about the millions of young Americans based here as our countries prepared for D-Day. We could not have asked any more of America’s soldiers and it is an enormous privilege to hear all the stories of the incredible sacrifices and special friendships they made here in Britain as our countries fought together shoulder to shoulder.
So to mark this year’s special 75th anniversary of D-Day, I am asking people across the UK to get in touch and share their stories of the American troops in their communities. I want to keep their memories alive and inspire a new generation with the stories of our D-Day heroes.
Their sense of duty and courage must never be forgotten. For decades, their stories have inspired many brave men and women to follow in their footsteps to defend our shared security and prosperity whatever the cost might be. From the Somme to Omaha Beach, from the Battle of the Bulge to Operation Thunderbolt, from Baghdad to the skies of Syria, for over 100 years American and British forces have fought side by side to defeat tyranny and terror. Let us honor the heroes of today and tomorrow by celebrating the memories of those who went before them.
About the Author: Woody Johnson serves as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom.
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