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London Stansted remembers D-Day and the airfield’s important role on that historic day

History / Fri 7th Jun 2024 at 06:32am

MILLIONS of people across the world will pause this Thursday to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

On June 6, 1944, allied forces stormed the beaches of northern France in a bid to retake occupied Europe from the Nazis.

London Stansted, George Washington Field, as it was known then, played a significant role during World War Two, no more so than on that day.

As the ninth largest US Air Force base in East Anglia, the airfield was home to the 344th Bomb group, known as the ‘Silver Streaks’, consisting of four squadrons of B-26 Marauders.

At shortly after 4am on June 6, 56 Marauders took to the skies from the airfield to lead 600 aircraft of the 9th Air Force into action.

Their targets were to attack heavy costal gun batteries on the Cherbourg peninsular and the nearby Normandy invasion beaches.

Their actions contributed to the success of the operation, paving the way for the allied troops to successfully storm the beaches and establish a foothold in Normandy.

The Bomb Group’s intense action supporting on June 6 and during the allied invasion earned them a Distinguished Unit Citation in July 1944.

Nick Millar, London Stansted’s Operations Director, said:

“London Stansted is extremely proud of its illustrious past and its origins as an US air force base in 1943. The airfield is widely recognised and acknowledged as playing a critical role on D-Day and the subsequent allied victory in Europe.

“While most people now know the airport as home to some of the most successful and popular airlines operating today, such as Ryanair, Jet2.com, and Emirates, we should never lose sight of our history or ever forget the hugely significant role the airfield played during World War Two.”

This significant time in the airport’s history has been remembered regularly over the years. In July 2009, four legendary American World War Two veterans who were part of the ‘Band of Brothers’ attended the unveiling of a commemorative display in the terminal.

Buck Compton, Donald Malarkey, Ed Tipper and Bradford Freeman, members of Easy Company, helped honour Stansted’s development by the US Army, as well as the operational role it played during the war.

While in July 2013, the airport held a spectacular flypast and ceremony to commemorate its 70th anniversary of its runway and wartime roots. As part of the ceremony, retired 344th Bomb Group flying ace, 88-year-old Major Edward W. Horn, flew in especially from America.

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