I’ve been aware for a long time that there was a memorial to the ten airmen who died when their USAAF B-17G Flying Fortress crashed in Sheffield’s western suburbs in 1944, but I mistakenly thought it was located somewhere in the depths of Ecclesall Woods.
Returning from a bombing mission over Denmark, the plane Mi Amigo was crippled by enemy gunfire and inexorably losing height as it limped towards the city.
David Harvey has extensively researched the story of Mi Amigo and its crew, which he wrote up and published in Mi Amigo’: the story of Sheffield’s Flying Fortress (ALD Design & Print 1997).
Eye-witness accounts agree that the plane approached Endcliffe Park from the south-east, over Gleadless and Heeley, and circled looking for a place to land. Eventually an engine died and the plane spun three times and plunged to the earth among the trees.
In 1969, when ten scarlet oak trees were planted to replace those that were destroyed or had to be felled after the wreckage was cleared, two memorial plaques were fixed to a large boulder, listing the ten airmen and dedicated to their memory:
Sheffield RAF Association
in memory of
the ten crew of USAAF bomber
which crashed in this park
Per Ardua Ad Astra
Lt John Kriegshauser (pilot, from Missouri)
Lt Lyle Curtis (co-pilot, from Idaho)
Lt John Whicker Humphrey (navigator, from Illinois)
Lt Melchor Hernandez (bomb-aimer, from California)
Sgt Robert Mayfield (radio operator/log-keeper/photographer, from Illinois)
Sgt Harry Estabrooks (flight engineer/top-turret gunner, from Kansas)
Sgt Charles Tuttle (lower turret gunner, from Kentucky)
Sgt Maurice Robbins (rear-gunner, from Texas)
Sgt Vito Ambrosio (waist-gunner and assistant radio operator, from New York)
Sgt George Malcolm Williams (waist-gunner and assistant flight engineer, from Oklahoma)
An annual commemoration, supported by the Hallamshire Branch of the Royal British Legion, takes place on the Sunday nearest to the anniversary.
A group of schoolboys who saw the plane come down never forgot it, and one of them, Tony Faulds, aided by the BBC journalist Dan Walker, campaigned for a flypast to mark the 75th anniversary of the incident.
On the morning of February 22nd 2019 ten RAF and USAAF aircraft flew over Endcliffe Park, watched by a crowd of thousands and broadcast live on BBC Breakfast.
Nuanced analyses in response to the 2019 commemoration suggest that the commonly accepted account has been repeatedly embellished: Did Tony Foulds Lie About Mi Amigo? • The Sheffield Guide.
History is complicated. Multiple witnesses see a sudden event from different viewpoints. Seventy-five years is a long time to recollect facts accurately. Journalists prioritise an eye-catching story over a forensic examination of facts.
What matters, surely, is that the supreme sacrifice of ten airmen is remembered and recognised by those of us who have lived after them.
Update: The eightieth anniversary of the Mi Amigo crash was marked by a further fly-past: Flypast to mark 80th anniversary of Mi Amigo US bomber crash (thestar.co.uk).