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DUXFORD - Hoping to re-create the spirit of the defunct Mildenhall Air Fete, the Imperial War Museum and the Air Force teamed up for the second Duxford American Air Day on Friday.

The event showcased a variety of aircraft from RAFs Mildenhall and Lakenheath and drew about 5,000 people.

"Before 9/11, [the] Mildenhall [event] was huge. When it stopped, we wanted to try and resurrect the essence of the Mildenhall air days," said Christian Pratt, museum spokesman. "It’s also a chance for the British to understand who these guys are and what they do."

While the Mildenhall Air Fete attracted upwards of half a million people before the military cancelled it following Sept. 11, 2001, the Duxford show seemed to please the crowds.

But for air show enthusiasts such as George Johnson "it’s nothing like it used to be."

"There were just so many more aircraft [at Mildenhall] ," said Johnson, 70, of nearby Bedfordshire. "It’s great to see the planes up close, though, and I still like to go up to Mildenhall and watch."

Johnson said he became an aviation enthusiast at the height of World War II.

"What really set me going was when I was a boy and I came outside of the house and the sky was full of aircraft on a raid mission to Germany," said Johnson, an apt symbol of the storied history between the U.S. Air Force and Duxford.

The relationship dates back to World War I when American units were first stationed in Duxford, which later was the first home to the 48th Fighter Wing, now based at Lakenheath. The American Air Museum there is a memorial to the 30,000 U.S. airmen who died flying from U.K. bases during WWII.

But today’s youth seem to get their zeal for military aircraft and weaponry thanks to video games, said Staff Sgt. Mason Seigerman, a member of the 352nd Special Operations Group on hand to explain a firearms display.

There are kids, however, whose enthusiasm is born from a combination of video games and the real-life experience.

"I like anything to do with war and weapons," said Lawrence Ong, 8, of Loughborough, who often accompanies his grandfather, a WWII veteran, to air shows around England. "I learned everything I know from video games and from my granddad."


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