US F-15s at Lakenheath painted to commemorate 75th D-Day anniversary
By WILLIAM HOWARD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 1, 2019
RAF LAKENHEATH, England — Smoke billowed out as the double doors of a 48th Fighter Wing hangar slowly slid apart, revealing the first of three F-15s painted to celebrate the wing’s heritage and to honor the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
“Every anniversary for D-Day is special, but this is the last that many veterans of that day may be able to attend, so we knew that this year was going to be very big,” wing commander Col. Will Marshall said Thursday. “We wanted to look at what we could do that was special for this year and both tie into the history of the 48th Fighter Wing in support for that day.”
The new paint job features a checkered pattern on the nose, black stripes down the wings and a Statue of Liberty on each tail. The fuselage also is decorated with unit insignia and, under one of the wings, the classic national star symbol, also known as an Air Force roundel.
The 48th Equipment Maintenance Squadron corrosion control section came up with 25 original paint designs and narrowed the final selection down to three for the wing commander’s approval.
Then 10 airmen from the section spent more than 640 man-hours and used $15,000 worth of paint and supplies for the first of the jets, fighter wing officials said.
Two other fighter squadrons at RAF Lakenheath also each will have one F-15 painted and returned to a normal flight schedule.
The heritage design closely matches the striking, red-and-white invasion stripes on P-47 Thunderbolts flown by the wing during World War II.
“It was the most historically accurate that we could put on the F-15,” Marshall said.
Designated then as the 48th Fighter-Bomber Group, the unit flew P-47s in Europe during WWII, including the invasion of Normandy, which began on June 6, 1944, also known as D-Day. Its crews flew about 2,000 sorties in support of the invasion, dropping more than 500 tons of bombs and firing 160,000 rounds of ammunition, the wing said.
“While we stand on the shoulders of giants of the kind of men and women who were part of that, there are great men and women projecting combat air power today,” Marshall said.
As home to the U.S. Air Forces in Europe’s only F-15 fighter wing, RAF Lakenheath provides combat airport to support operations in Europe, Africa and southeast Asia.
“This allows us to draw that straight line between the events of that day to what folks are doing here and be motivated when they see that airplane,” Marshall said.
Unit decals below the cockpit of an F-15E Strike Eagle from the 492nd Fighter Squadron painted with a World War II-inspired design to commemorate the D-Day 75th Anniversary, at RAF Lakenheath, England, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. The squadron earned its nickname, Mad Hatters, when its pilots swapped their berets for bowler hats after the unit relocated from France to England in 1960.
WILLIAM HOWARD/STARS AND STRIPES