Valor in the Skies

Valor in the Skies is a series about USAAF and RAF Aircrews and airfields of World War II. Most airfields are in East Anglia, although 700+ airfields were built and outfitted for the War, and they are all over the British Isles. East Anglia has 156 airfields which are sometimes as close to each other as five miles.

B-17-over--Omaha-Beach

Over Omaha Beach

B-17 over Omaha Beach

A B-17 comes in over the English Channel before rising up over the cliffs at Omaha Beach. After D-Day, cousin Mike co-piloted a B-17 which had been converted for strafing and carried 13 machine guns all pointed forward, each with 1,000 rounds of ammo. They strafed anything with a swastika on it and this included cars, tanks, trucks, trains, soldiers, planes, bunkers, or anything which looked ‘good’. Of special interest were cars with flags on the fenders. This was how Rommel’s car was strafed.
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USAF Thorpe Abbots 100th Bomb Group control tower

The Bloody 100th Bomb Group Fields

USAF Thorpe Abbots 100th Bomb Group Control Tower

RAF Thorpe Abbotts is home to the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum. The 100th came to be known as the “Bloody 100th”, after losing 12+ aircraft each on 8 missions over Germany. The 100th flew its last mission over Germany on April 10, 1945. About 5 acres near the control tower have been preserved, but the runways have been returned to farming. The 100th Bomb Group Museum looks like no other airfield I visited as it gets thoroughly policed daily and the buildings have been restored and kept in mint condition.
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Summer Storm over RAF Lavenham

Summer Storm

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Summer Storm over RAF Lavenham

RAF Lavenham was home to the 487th Bombardment Group (Heavy) and flew B-24 Liberators and B-17 Flying Fortresses of the Mighty Eighth Air Force. It began operations in May 1944 in preparation for D-Day, when the 487th BG assisted Allied ground forces. The largest raid of the war was launched from Lavenham as part of a mission with 2,100 bombers and 725 fighters. USAAF Lavenham is entirely returned to farming and the control tower is now a nicely preserved home.
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RAF Tibenham Glider

RAF Tibenham

Utah-beach

RAF Tibenham became home to the 445th Bombardment Group (Heavy) with B-24’s and on December 13, 1943, launched their initial raid on submarine pens at Kiel. The 445th bombed defensive installations on D-Day to assist ground forces. During the Battle of the Bulge, it bombed communications centers and fixed emplacements. The 445th flew its final combat mission on April 25, 1945. Today, RAF Tibenham is home to the Norfolk Gliding Club which uses the same runways, albeit now with numbers on them. During the War, no runway was numbered in order to not tip off the enemy.
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RAF Thorpe Abbots 100th Bomb Group

RAF Thorpe Abbots

Utah-beach

RAF Thorpe Abbotts was built during 1942-1943 for the Royal Air Force, but the expanding 8th Air Force took over instead. The 100th Bombardment Group (Heavy) flew the B-17 Flying Fortress as part of the 8th’s strategic bombing campaign. Some of the remaining buildings including the control tower form the nucleus form the 100th’s Memorial Museum. The grounds are spotless and very much reminiscent of how they probably looked in WW2. All it’s missing are the painfully young fliers and ground crews.
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RAF Deopham Green - 452nd Bomb Group

RAF Deopham Green

RAF Deopham Green: 452nd Bomb Group Memorial

The airfield at Deopham Green became the home of various commands including military police, weather, quartermaster corps, ordnance and supply divisions, and the 457th Bombardment Group (Heavy) with its complement of B-17’s. The 457th BG entered service on February 5, 1944 in preparation for D-Day. Today the airfield is completely returned to farming, although one runway has been narrowed to become a road. This monument is one of the few indicators that heroic aviators flew from here.
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RAF Beaulieu Runway

The New Forest

RAF Beaulieu Runway

RAF/USAAF Beaulieu was used by both air forces, but under the aegis of the USAAF, it was the home of 365th Fighter Group flying P-47 Thunderbolts and 323rd Bombardment Group’s B-26 Marauders. Today the remains of the airfield are on managed land in the New Forest where wild ponies roam. A short piece of original runway exists for use with model aircraft and parts of the perimeter roads are for the use of visitors.
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RAF Elvington Hastings Wing

Hastings Wing at RAF Elvington

RAF Elvington, Hastings Wing

RAF Elvington is today known as the Yorkshire Air Museum. It has a 10,000 foot runway which had been laid down when the airbase was extended and modernized to become a Strategic Air Command base. But after spending millions, the US abandoned the base in 1958.
In 2006, the 2-mile long runway was where Top Gear’s Richard Hammond crashed while traveling 280mph in a jet-powered car. Somehow, he survived.
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