MEMORY LANE: US airmen’s Eye ‘invasion’

Black American Servicemen who constructed Eye Aerodrome in 1943 march through Stowmarket Town Centre on Parade. ANL-150330-110116001
Black American Servicemen who constructed Eye Aerodrome in 1943 march through Stowmarket Town Centre on Parade. ANL-150330-110116001

Last week the Diss Express reported how the airmen of the 490th Bombardment Group, who were based at Eye Airfield during the 1940s, were set to be immortalised with a memorial after a successful fundraising effort.

Clive Stevens, a member of the memorial project, has submitted photos which gives further insight into their stay in Suffolk 70 years ago.

Local lads from Oakley and Brome pose for the camera with one of the Ground Crew aircraft mechanics on the base at Eye - 1945. ANL-150330-110139001

Local lads from Oakley and Brome pose for the camera with one of the Ground Crew aircraft mechanics on the base at Eye - 1945. ANL-150330-110139001

The 490th flew 158 missions from June 1944 to July 1945.

They were initially activated on October 1, 1943 at Salt Lake City Army Air Base, Utah, before then being transferred to Mountain Home Army Air Field, Idaho.

It was there where the group formed and trained, from December to April 1944.

The ground unit left for Camp Shanks, New York, on April 11, 1944, sailing on the SS Niew Amsterdam, arriving in Clyde on April 25. On April 12, the aircraft started the overseas movement, taking the southern ferry route, via Morrison Field, Florida, through Trinidad, Brazil, Dakar and Marrakesh to Britain.

The 490th Bomb Group returns to Eye after a mission, whilst the stars and strips proudly fly's over Group Headquarters in Brome. ANL-150330-110128001

The 490th Bomb Group returns to Eye after a mission, whilst the stars and strips proudly fly's over Group Headquarters in Brome. ANL-150330-110128001

The group arrived at RAF Eye for operations with VIII Bomber Command in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) and was assigned to the 93rd Combat Bombardment Wing.

The group tail code was a ‘Square-T’.

Initially, the 490th started combat missions in June 1944. This consisted of bombing airfields and coastal defences in France using B-24s, immediately preceding and during the invasion of Normandy.

They would switch to B-27s in the August of that year.

A direct hit by enemy anti-aircraft shellfire from the ground (Flak) bring this mighty B-17 Flying Fortress Bombers down in sheets of flame over the target in Germany. The rest of the aircraft will make it back to Suffolk. ANL-150330-110054001

A direct hit by enemy anti-aircraft shellfire from the ground (Flak) bring this mighty B-17 Flying Fortress Bombers down in sheets of flame over the target in Germany. The rest of the aircraft will make it back to Suffolk. ANL-150330-110054001

The group was redeployed to the USA in the summer of 1945, with their journey home beginning on July 6.

The ground unit sailed from Southampton on the RMS Queen Elizabeth on August 26, 1945, arriving back in New York on September 1, 1945.

The 490th was established at Drew Field, Florida two days later, and deactivated there on November 7.

n The second phase of fundraising has begun for the memorial project. For more information, visit www.490th.co.uk

A young American serviceman's body is removed from a Flying Fortress bomber at Eye Airfield to be taken to the base mortuary in Brome Village, before being buried at the American Military Cemetery in Cambridge. ANL-150330-110105001

A young American serviceman's body is removed from a Flying Fortress bomber at Eye Airfield to be taken to the base mortuary in Brome Village, before being buried at the American Military Cemetery in Cambridge. ANL-150330-110105001