Wartime US airman to be honoured with Mildenhall renaming
PUBLISHED: 15:10 19 June 2019 | UPDATED: 08:30 21 June 2019
A US serviceman stationed in Norfolk during the Second World War is to be honoured by having a building named after him at RAF Mildenhall.
100th Bomb Group veteran Dewey R Christopher, who served at Thorpe Abbotts, near Diss, from May 1943, will be recognised by having his name given to the training centre at a special ceremony on June 21.
A recipient of the Bronze Star for heroism, the former serviceman is expected to travel with his family from America to attend the re-naming ceremony.
He previously returned to East Anglia with fellow veterans and families from the 100th Bombardment Group Foundation in 2017, visiting Mildenhall and former airbase including an emotional trip to Thorpe Abbots - home of the 100th Bomb Group.
The 100th gained the reputation as the 'Bloody Hundredth' due to the heavy losses they suffered. In the 22 months between their first combat mission on June 25, 1943 and last on April 20, 1945 they were credited with 8,630 missions with the loss of 732 airmen and 177 aircraft.
Mr Christopher, a maintenance crew chief, was part of ground crew who kept mission-capable the B-17 Flying Fortresses, often when they were full of bullet holes.
He said: "My squadron was the 351st Bomb Squadron. We were fortunate that all our airplanes were dispersed on the side of the runway where they took off, so we saw every take off, every landing - we were parallel to the runway and the taxiway.
"We used to go down to the west end of the runway and watch them; sometimes they could barely make it, weighed down because of maximum fuel load and maximum bomb load.
"I never lost an airplane and I had the lead airplane most times. I got the Bronze Star for having more than 60 missions without a maintenance report; that meant there weren't any discrepancies on my airplane," he said proudly.
The Mildenhall Professional Development Center to be named after him hosts classes for new airmen on their first posting.
A USAF spokesman said: "All of our first term airmen who are new to the service attend a course when they arrive at their first duty station that bolsters what they learnt in basic training and tech schools, about life in the air force and what is expected of them."