US and UK leaders honor WWII Airmen at Stanwick Lakes memorial

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jennifer Zima
  • 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs
U.S. and U.K. leaders gathered for a ceremony at the Stanwick Lakes Visitor Centre, England, Feb. 22, to honor the memory of 17 Airmen who lost their lives in a midair collision 80 years ago, Feb. 22, 1944.

The collision involved two B-17 Flying Fortresses and claimed the lives of service members from the 303rd Bombardment Group stationed at RAF Molesworth and the 384th Bombardment Group stationed at RAF Grafton Underwood. These Airmen flew in Operation Argument, also known as "The Big Week," which consisted of raids against enemy industrial targets and aircraft facilities throughout Europe. The operation aimed to help establish Allied air superiority over Western Europe in preparation for the planned Allied landings in France in June 1944.

Nadia Norman, Heritage Coordinator at Stanwick Lakes, emphasized the significance of the event, stating, “The B-17 collision in 1944 is such a significant event in local history, and it was important to us that we were able to remember and commemorate the Airmen. A permanent memorial here at Stanwick Lakes will help tell the story of the self-sacrifice and bravery of our Allied forces. It will be a lasting legacy that shows that communities had and still have a special relationship with U.S. air bases in our local area.”

U.S. Air Force Col. D. Landon Phillips, 501st Combat Support Wing commander, expressed gratitude to the Stanwick Lakes staff for preserving the memory of the fallen Pathfinders. He also appreciated the U.K. community's warm reception of U.S. military personnel and their steadfast partnership.

“I'm honored to stand alongside our UK partners in remembrance and grateful for those who have been kind enough to host us,” said Phillips. “Your commitment to cherishing the memory of our fallen wingmen is a testament to our two countries' long-standing special relationship. It reinforces the bond between our great nations."

John Abbott and Andy Dyks, Stanwick Lakes volunteers, led the research of the crash and the Airmen who died.