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East Anglia and the US remain a band of brothers 75 years on from D-Day mission

PUBLISHED: 06:00 06 June 2019

US ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson during the commemorations for the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings at Southsea Common in Portsmouth. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

US ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson during the commemorations for the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings at Southsea Common in Portsmouth. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Woody Johnson, United States ambassador to the United Kingdom, celebrates the special bond between East Anglia and the USA on the 75th anniversary of D-Day

A man holds flags during the commemorations for the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings at Southsea Common in Portsmouth. Photo: Victoria Jones/PA WireA man holds flags during the commemorations for the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings at Southsea Common in Portsmouth. Photo: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

This week the United States and the United Kingdom will come together to remember what is undoubtedly the finest moment in the history of our alliance together: the D-Day landings.

Never in human history had such a vast and complex military operation been undertaken and the success of Operation Overlord was not only the beginning of the liberation of Europe, it was the beginning of the free world we have the privilege of living in today.

On this very special anniversary, I want to pay a particular tribute to the towns and villages of East Anglia.

At the height of the war, the local countryside here contained an airfield every eight miles.

These were the bases for hundreds of thousands of American troops, in particular the airmen of the 8th and 9th US Air Forces.

They called it the friendly invasion for a reason.

By 1944, in counties like Norfolk and Suffolk, Americans accounted for a staggering one in six of all the residents.

Once sleepy villages of just a couple of hundred people were suddenly faced with the influx of thousands of young Americans, who brought their Jeeps, jazz and jitterbug dances into the heart of the English countryside and left a lasting legacy here in the region.

We could not have asked any more of those young men who assembled here from across the United States.

In the months before D-Day, American airmen took off from East Anglia to carry out vital bombing missions across Europe, striking at the heart of the Nazi war industry, as well as key targets across northern France.

On D-Day itself, the bombers of the Mighty Eight Air Force flew more than 2,000 sorties over Normandy and Cherbourg to neutralize the enemy's coastal defences and provide much-needed support to the troops on the ground.

Today, it is hard for us to even imagine the courage it took to fly out, on mission after mission, never knowing if you would make it home.

Many, of course, did not.

Over 30,000 of the American airmen who flew from British bases lost their lives in the fight to end Nazi tyranny over Europe.

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The years may pass, but the heavy price they paid for the freedom of others should always be remembered.

That is exactly what is happening here in East Anglia.

The bravery, service and sacrifice of America's airmen has never been forgotten here.

From simple memorial plaques in your pubs, hotels and even forests, to large museums, such as the Second Air Division Memorial Library in Norwich, there are countless tributes across the Eastern counties to America's wartime heroes.

Just recently, I heard of yet another great local effort.

People are coming together to launch a new campaign for a memorial in Fersfield to one of America's most famous pilots in the war: Lieutenant Joe Kennedy.

The older brother of our future President was destined for a life in politics himself, but tragically he was killed in action when his plane exploded during a top secret mission over the village of Blythburgh in Suffolk.

Today, we remember Joe as we remember all our troops: as members of our greatest generation.

It is incredibly moving to see the passionate efforts of people across East Anglia to commemorate America's heroes, just as you commemorate Britain's.

We don't just fight together, we also remember together.

The bond between our nations runs very deep indeed.

It was forged during the war, in that time of common purpose and common sacrifice.

And it continues to grow every single day.

Because what started in the war never stopped.

The US Air Force never left this region. There are still thousands of US airmen living here in East Anglia at bases like Mildenhall, Lakenheath and Alconbury.

They are working side by side with British friends and colleagues to keep Europe safe.

Now, 75 years later, our nations remain a band of brothers.

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