USAAF 305th BG, 364th BS,44-6009,Flak Eater, August 1944
At the beginning of a year that would mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, a tragic war event that took place in a public park in Sheffield on 22 February 1944 would receive extensive national media coverage and commemorate the sacrifice of the men of the 8th US Air Force. The crew of the B-17G Flying Fortress "Mi Amigo" had just taken part in a bombing raid on the Luftwaffe airfield in Alborg, northern Denmark, and after suffering a sustained attack from the flak and Luftwaffe fighters, they fell out of formation and returned home. With several crew members injured and radio/navigational equipment not working, the aircraft struggled to find an emergency landing field in low cloud and found itself over the city of Sheffield at low altitude and with damaged engines - the aircraft had to be landed and landed quickly.
The bomber was heard circling the Endcliffe Park area for some time before a change in engine tone immediately caused the aircraft to fall to the ground, crashing on a wooded bank at the end of the park and the tragic loss of all those on board. No one on the ground was injured in the incident and it was reported that the crew was waving children playing in the park, away from the area, for fear they would be injured by the hit bomber. What is certain is that the crew of the "Mi Amigo" avoided what could have been a disaster for the city of Sheffield and paid the ultimate price. One of more than 12,700 B-17 Flying Fortress bombers built during the Second World War, the 42-31322 will leave Boeing Seattle's production lines in October 1943 and embark on a tour of several sites in the United States, where various additional internal equipment can be installed, before its journey to Great Britain and the European theatre of operations.
Taking the dangerous northern route, which included stopovers in Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland and finally Scotland, the plane finally arrives with the 305th Bomb Group in Chelveston on January 30, 1944. Once the bomber was assigned to a crew, they were given the name "Mi Amigo", which means "my friend" in Spanish, suggested by Lieutenant Melcher Hernandez, who had Spanish origins and hoped the name would bring luck to his aircraft - it received the approval of the entire ten-man crew. The crew had been assembled from all over America and, after completing their individual training program, they gathered at Geiger Field, Washington, for intensive group training, with a view to landing overseas and in the war. The "Mi Amigo" was to take its place in a concerted Allied bombing campaign designed to reduce Germany's ability to fight the war and, in particular, to pave the way for the next Allied invasion of occupied Europe - D-Day.