SHEFFIELD, England - Tony Foulds has spent countless hours throughout his lifetime preserving the memory of an American B-17 bomber plane, the "Mi Amigo," and its crew of 10 American soldiers whose bravery, Foulds says, saved his life 75 years ago.
On Feb. 22, 1944, a young Foulds was playing with a group of children in Endcliffe Park, South Yorkshire, England, when a disabled American B-17 bomber plane started circling overheard. The pilot, Lt. John Kriegshauser, was waving to the children to get their attention in an attempt to clear the field they were on for an emergency landing.
The "Mi Amigo" had been damaged badly by Nazi fighters on its way back to an English base after flying a bombing mission with the 305th Bombardment Group, 8th Army Air Force to Denmark. They were aiming to destroy a Nazi air base, but had to abort the mission due to extreme weather conditions.
The "Mi Amigo" lost contact with and got separated from the bomber group on the return flight, and ultimately flew approximately 80 miles off course toward Sheffield, which is how the failing plane ended up circling above Foulds and his friends at Endcliffe Park.
Before Lt. Kriesghauser could make a safe landing, the plane began losing altitude.
Rather than attempt to land the plane and potentially harm the British schoolchildren, Lt. Kriesghauser made the decision to crash the plane into a nearby forest, where it exploded upon impact, killing all 10 of the American soldiers on board.
Foulds believes that the decision made by Lt. Kriesghauser to crash into the forest saved not only his life, but the lives of all the other children playing in Endcliffe Park that afternoon. He swore to never forget the immense sacrifice that the crew of the "Mi Amigo" made for him and his friends.
Lt. Kriesghauser was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions that day.
Ten American oak trees were planted in Endcliffe Park in 1969 and dedicated to the fallen crew of the "Mi Amigo," and Foulds has worked diligently since then to preserve their legacy.
2019 marked the 75th anniversary of the crash, so Foulds, along with the BBC, coordinated a military flyover to honor the fallen crew of the "Mi Amigo," in which 10 planes from the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Air Force participated. These planes circled the field three times, just as the "Mi Amigo" had in 1944.
The ceremony ended with four F-15 Strike Eagles performing the missing man formation, an aviator tribute to lost aircraft crews.