JAC commander dedicates memorial mural at WWII U.S. base

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jennifer Zima
  • 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs

A U.S. European Command Joint Intelligence Operations Center Europe Analytic Center commander dedicated a mural at the location of a former World War II U.S. Army Air Forces base, Royal Air Force Glatton, England, Aug. 19, 2021.

U.S. Air Force Col. Abe Jackson, EUCOM JAC commander, worked with the staff of the Flying Club Conington at Peterborough Conington Airfield, to commemorate the 457th Bombardment Group Airmen who served and flew missions from RAF Glatton, from Feb. 21, 1944 until April 20, 1945.

Within the 14 months, 729 Airmen were either killed in action, missing in action, or prisoners of war.

Julie Churchill, owner of the Flying Club Conington, commissioned a mural to be painted on their hangar. The club utilizes the runway and hangar left behind from the former base.

“We really wanted to honor the connections that we’ve got with the 457th,” Churchill said. “We routinely get children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren [of the Airmen] come to see. We wanted to produce something that will be meaningful to them and to us.”

Jackson dedicated the mural and shared his thoughts about the memorial.

“Today symbolizes an opportunity for us to recognize the significant contributions of those Airmen who came before us,”  Jackson said. “In every generation, there’s always a spirit of innovation and excitement that Airmen have. I got to share and retell their story and their legacy. It’s their story, but I got a chance to share it with everybody that was here.”

Nathan Murdock, a Peterborough artist, painted the mural depicting the last crew to face a casualty from RAF Glatton, who flew a mission over Germany two days before the war ended.

The crew was flying mission 234 on April 18, 1945, above the marshalling yards in Freising, Germany. After completing the target drop, their B-17 Flying Fortress was hit and the crew parachuted from the damaged plane. Sgt. John T. Miller, 748th Bombardment Squadron engineer, was killed in action. The rest of the nine members safely landed, but were taken prisoner by the Germans. They were liberated ten days later.

Murdock was moved by the piece and expressed his emotions.

“There’s a lot of pressure because you’re telling a piece of history and it has an emotional connection,” Murdock said. “When I was painting, there were a lot of people crying. What I really enjoy is doing something that provokes an emotion and a connection to people. That makes it more special and worthwhile.”

Geoff Goodchild, a part-time volunteer and duty manager at Conington Flying Club, avidly researches local military history and provides tours to visiting families of the 457th BG veterans.

“The veterans used to come over, those that were able,” said Goodchild. “Year on year, the numbers get less and less. What I love about the Americans, is they have a great sense of family and tradition. Those aviators’ families now come over in their place. Even though the place doesn’t exist anymore, I was able to show them where their father or grandfather would have laid their head at night. I’ve walked them up the runway that he would have flown from. I took a photograph with them holding a picture of their grandfather and father. That was quite a tear-jerking moment, because it meant so much to them to be able to see where he’d been. That’s the prime mover of me, remembering people who should never ever be forgotten.”

Churchill recognizes the privilege of being able to fly.

“When we go flying, we do it because we want to,” Churchill said. “We know we’re coming back in an hour and having a bacon sandwich or a beer. When they went flying, they didn’t necessarily want to, but they did it for all of us. They didn’t necessarily have any expectation of coming back at all.”