WWII-era planes take to the sky at Lakenheath fundraiser
By WILLIAM HOWARD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 7, 2018
RAF LAKENHEATH, England — The only Republic P-47 Thunderbolt flying outside the United States followed a much smaller Supermarine Spitfire onto the flight line Monday as part of a yearly money-raising effort for the Air Force Assistance Fund.
Airmen were invited to take an up-close look and step into the cockpits of the historic planes from the Imperial War Museums at Duxford.
The P-47 Thunderbolt, the fighter the 48th Fighter Wing flew during World War II, was painted in the 492nd Fighter Squadron’s striking red-and-white invasion stripes from that period. Nicknamed “The Jug,” the P-47 was the most-produced American fighter of World War II. It held its own in air-to-air combat but was especially useful as a fighter-bomber, providing close air support to the troops on the ground.
The Spitfire that flew on Monday was the one that had escorted the famous Memphis Belle B-17 Flying Fortress during its last mission in Germany. The model was Britain’s most-famous aircraft of WWII and a hero of the Battle of Britain, which ended Hitler’s hopes of invading the island nation.
“We wanted to make sure that our airmen could reach out and touch that continuity of heritage,” said 492nd FS commander Lt. Col. Jeremy Renken. “The airmen here really represent an ongoing sustained commitment to not only air power in Europe but also that special trans-Atlantic relationship we have with the U.K.”
Monday’s event was part of an annual effort to raise money for the Air Force Assistance Fund, which benefits active-duty airmen, retirees, reservists, guardsmen and their families.
“As an airman first class when I was stationed in Japan I got a Red Cross notification and I needed to get home right away,” said Capt. Jessica Thomas, an AFAF volunteer. “And if it wasn’t for the Air Force Assistance Fund I wouldn’t have been able to. Every year when it comes around it means something special to me.”
Airmen of the 492nd Fighter Squadron pose for a group photo with a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt from the Imperial War Museum Duxford and F-15 Eagles from the 48th Fighter Wing during a wing heritage fundraising event at RAF Lakenheath, England, Monday, May 7, 2018. The event raised money for the Air Force Assistance Fund, which provides emergency support to Air Force active duty, retirees, reservists, guard and dependents.
WILLIAM HOWARD/STARS AND STRIPES