One of the most pivotal moments in air warfare in Europe was commemorated in poignant scenes in Horham on Tuesday, 70 years to the day of the first daylight raid in Berlin.
Dozens of people gathered at the 95th Bomb Group Heritage Association’s Red Feather Club for a ceremony to remember the bomb group. On March 4, 1944, the 95th became the first USAAF group to bomb the German capital during daylight - in extraordinary circumstances.
Chairman of the group, James Mutton, retold the story of the famous raid, while Chaplain Lt Col Gary Snyder, of RAF Lakenheath, also said words.
Current American servicemen Matthew Perry, technical sergeant, Joseph Schlotthauer, staff sergeant and Christopher Sauer, senior airman, laid at a wreath at the memorial at the Red Feather Club.
Mr Mutton told the Diss Express: “The committee and I decided that we had to do something with the March 4 mission, because of the Presidential Unit Citation. (The 95th) were the only group to receive that award, so that put us above all of the other groups.
“It was great to see so many members. There are even three or four people here who would have been in the village of Horham when they took off that morning, which was quite meaningful. It was the day of history really.
“It is also very, very good to see present serving USAF take interest in what we are doing, because this is not only our local history, it is their national history.
“We are very proud.”
Pauline Roe, who used to cut the grass by the runway in Horham and worked for the Ministry of Food, was in attendance at the ceremony on Tuesday, and said it was “very important” to remember the sacrifice of the bomb group.
“They (servicemen of the 95th Bomb Group) did a tremendous amount of good will,” she said. “At home on my walls I have got newspaper cuttings all about the 95th Bomb Group.”
Chaplain Lt Col Snyder added: “It is a very fitting tribute to some very noble airmen and to keep their memory, their heritage and the sacrifices they made, so that we can live in freedom and in security, I think is very appropriate.
“It is always inspiring to see how our British friends are passionate in keeping the memory alive, and keeping that legacy in the forefront of their minds. For me, as an American airman, it makes me stand a little taller.”
Several attempts to bomb Berlin had been recalled during the Second World War - including one the day previous. But the day finally came on March 4, 1944.
Lt Col H Griffin ‘Grif’ Mumford, the commanding officer of the 412th squadron, was mission leader on that day. Crews were also assisted by a Pathfinder B-17, equipped with radar to help see through clouds.
In treacherous weather conditions, with temperatures plummeting to as low as minus 65 degrees fahrenheit, and deep into enemy territory, a recall signal was received. But it was too close, and was not concluded with the correct call sign. Some aircraft turned around, but Lt Col Mumford decided to carry on to Berlin. It was proved that the recall had been incorrect - the signals had been sent by the Germans.
Lt Alvin Brown, pilot of the lead plane from the 482nd Bomb Group and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, was reported to have said: “The bomb drop was achieved against all odds!
“Enemy fighters attacking, flak everywhere, lousy weather. In spite of all the negative factors Berlin had received the first bombs dropped by American planes in daylight ... we had proved that Germany’s most prized and protected target – Berlin – was no longer safe from Eighth Air Force daylight attacks.”
For his decisive part in the mission, Lt Col Grif Mumford was awarded the Silver Star.
The 95th Bomb Group was the only Eighth Air Force Bomb Group to receive the Distinguished Unit Citation - also known as the Presidential Unit Citation - three times.
They flew 334 missions and were awarded a record three Presidential Unit Citations, the third for the raid on Berlin. The 95th, which lost more than 600 men in action, was part of the ’Mighty Eighth Air Force’, and was made up of four squadrons - the 334th, 335th, 336th and 412th.