AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England (USAFENS) — As an Air Force
fighter pilot in England, I’ve been afforded a special
perspective of America. Yes, America. On every mission I fly
here I am literally surrounded by our American history. What
I see are beautiful green fields, small English villages and
hundreds of airfields. It is truly an amazing sight . . . an
absolutely unique view of this Earth.
I fly from Lakenheath towards the coast and North Sea, I cannot
set my eyes anywhere without seeing an American airfield from
World War II. Some names might be familiar to you, such as
Watton and Sudbury. Others most of you have never heard of,
such as Old Buckenham and Grafton Underwood. In total, there
are hundreds of airfields across the East Anglian countryside.
Today, they are quiet, rural and peaceful. This has not always
been the case. For our forefathers here, just over sixty years
ago, these airfields were weapons of war, places of sacrifice,
ultimately hallowed ground.
is difficult for us in 2006 to imagine the American Airmen’s
experience in East Anglia during WWII. In late 1942 the war
was going poorly for the Allies. The Nazis ruled continental
Europe; the Japanese had conquered most of the Pacific and
East Asia. Defeats were more common than victories. Death was
Europe, the lone Allied hope was airpower, specifically in
the form of an American and British bombing offensive against
Germany. The risks were incredibly high, and as the statistics
now show, the risks were proven accurate. The bombing offensive
began with small steps in early 1943, and the losses were staggering.
aircrew was given the goal of reaching 25 combat missions over
Germany, and for the first year virtually none survived the
challenge. American Airmen flew thousands of missions from
airfields that surround us here at Lakenheath.
to Roger Freeman, the famous Eighth Air Force historian, the
skies over East Anglia were never absent of the sound and sight
of American warbirds.
we are again a nation at war. Ours is a dangerous war, against
a ruthless and utterly evil adversary. This war will demand
the best of America’s Airmen, and I absolutely believe
it is the great challenge of our generation.
I think it important for us to reflect upon the sacrifices
of our forefathers. In the years 1943-45, more than 37,000
American Airmen died flying from airfields here in Suffolk
and Norfolk. Each of these men had parents, brothers, sisters,
wives or children back home, across the Atlantic. Was their
sacrifice in vain? Absolutely not! Their struggle in the skies
over Germany reversed the course of the war, and ultimately
earned victory for the Allied cause.
sacrifices changed history, brought liberty to untold millions,
and made the world a far better place for you and me today.
Roosevelt captured this noble spirit when he said, “Far
better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs,
even though checkered by failure . . . than to rank with those
poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because
they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
time I strap into a jet and launch for the skies above East
Anglia, I scan the countryside for an American airfield. When
I find that familiar landmark, I say a small prayer of thanksgiving
for the sacrifices of our forefathers, and ask that I might
always have the same courage, determination, and sense of sacrifice.
hope is that living here in this special part of England, on
Hallowed Ground, that you feel the same.