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  • Dave, Steel City Snapper

Courage Above The Clouds: Remembering the Mi Amigo Ten



Photo by Dave, Steel City Snapper

On the morning of Thursday 22 February, two American fighter jets flew fast and low across Sheffield City Centre. However, this potentially alarming sight was not a signal that World War III was starting, but instead a fitting tribute to ten US airmen who had lost their lives 80 years before.

 

Late afternoon on 22 February 1944, the USAAF Boeing B17 Flying Fortress bomber 42-31322 “Mi Amigo” from the 364th Bomber Squadron was returning, heavily damaged, from a bombing mission over Aalborg, Denmark. The crew were attempting to return to RAF Chelveston in Northamptonshire but, miles off course, they found themselves circling over the Hunters Bar area of Sheffield. Losing both height and fuel, Pilot Officer 1st Lieutenant John G. Kriegshauser had no option other than to try to attempt an emergency landing in Endcliffe Park below.

 

Spotting children playing in the park and no safe area to land, the Mi Amigo crashed heavily on the hillside above the north bank of the Porter Brook at around 5pm, with the loss of all ten crew members. Kriegshauser received a posthumous US Distinguished Flying Cross for his courage in sacrificing the crew, and saving the children in the park.

 

One of those children playing in the park was eight year old Tony Foulds. He is now believed to be the last surviving witness to the crash and he recalls today how he saw Kriegshauser waving to the children moments before the crash, almost certainly imploring them to hastily vacate the area. Thanks to Kriegshauser, there was no damage or loss of life other than the plane and crew, but Tony says he has lived with survivors guilt his whole life.


Photo by Dave, Steel City Snapper

There is a simple stone memorial to the Mi Amigo crew at the crash site in Endcliffe Park. It was installed in 1969 by the Sheffield Royal Air Forces Association, and has been maintained for many years by Tony Foulds who can be seen most days sweeping the ground around it and telling the story of the Mi Amigo crew to anyone who wants to listen. It was recently restored for the 80th anniversary after the Royal Air Forces Association secured funding.

 

Every year the anniversary of the crash is remembered by the local community. In 2019, TV presenter Dan Walker famously organised a 75th anniversary flypast after befriending Tony Foulds and hearing his recollections of the crash. The flypast on that day featured a Douglas Dakota, part of the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight; a Lockheed MC-130 and V22 Osprey; a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker; and finally four McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle planes passed over Endcliffe Park performing a missing-man formation. The whole event was broadcast live on BBC Breakfast, and the huge crowd gathered in the park that day will never forget it.

 

So fast-forward to Thursday 22 February 2024, and for the 80th anniversary of this tragic event two US Airforce F-15E Fighter Jets from the 492nd Fighter Squadron flew over Endcliffe Park in a spectacular flypast.

 

Captain Max "Banzai" Robinson of the USAF 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, had the honour of leading. They made a single pass over Endcliffe Park in a westerly direction at 11am. The Pilot Officers gave an 'eyes right' towards the Mi Amigo Memorial in honour and military respect for the ten airmen who tragically lost their lives.

 

Tony Foulds was amongst the large crowd that gathered in the park and he commented that he wasn’t expecting the jets to be quite that loud! It was very moving to spend the morning of the anniversary with Tony, he was much in-demand for TV interviews but also with well-wishers wanting to say hello and here his recollections of that fateful day. After the flypast, Tony walked the short distance to the memorial stone itself to pay his respects to “his boys”, as he does every day.


Photo by Dave, Steel City Snapper

So the anniversary of the crash itself was on Thursday, but the Sheffield Royal Air Forces Association organise an annual service at the memorial on the closest Sunday to the anniversary. This year that was 25 February. There was a large turnout from the local community who have been attending these events since the memorial stone was installed in 1969, but in greater numbers since Dan Walker publicised it in 2019.

 

Squadron Leader Barry Darwin (Retired) of the Sheffield Royal Air Forces Association led the memorial service and read out the Roll of Honour of all ten airmen who died in the crash:

 

Pilot 1st Lt. John Kriegshauser

Co-pilot 2nd Lt. Lyle Curtis

Navigator 2nd Lt. John Humphrey

Bombardier 2nd Lt. Melchor Hernandez

Flight engineer/top turret gunner S/Sgt. Harry Estabrooks

Radio operator S/Sgt. Bob Mayfield

Ball turret gunner Sgt. Charles Tuttle

Waist gunner T/Sgt. Malcolm Williams

Waist gunner Sgt. Vito Ambrosio

Tail gunner Sgt. Maurice Robbins

 

After a two minute silence and the Last Post sounded, Barry Darwin read the poem “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them”. Reverend Ela Nuta Hall from St Augustine’s Church said a prayer and the Bishop of Doncaster, the Right Reverend Sophie Jelley, provided a blessing.

 

There was a wreath laying ceremony and local dignitaries such as the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, the Master Cutler, and the Lord Lieutenant laid poppy wreaths at the memorial, along with representatives of South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, the RAF, and US Airforce. Family members of the Mi Amigo crew also laid a wreath at the memorial, an emotional moment. It was a very solemn occasion and speeches were kept to a minimum. After the proceedings had come to a close, members of the public paid their own respects at the memorial, some laying flowers. The RAF service in Endcliffe Park was then followed by a longer service in St Augustine’s Church on Brocco Bank.

 

It is 80 years now since the B17 Flying Fortress Mi Amigo crashed in Endcliffe Park on that fateful day, but Sheffield has made it clear that those brave airmen will never be forgotten.

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