Bletsoe residents launch fundraiser for memorial to US air crew whose plane crashed in village field

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In remembrance: 2Lt Donald James Schaefer, 2LT Floyd Burton “Butch” Henry, 2Lt Willard A Transeth, 2LT Roy A McKinney, TSGT Charles Weller, SSGT Sheldon H Kinberg, SSGT John Walter Byrd Jr., Sgt Ronald M. Minter Jr. and Sgt John Charles Simons

A dedicated team of volunteers in Bletsoe is raising money for a memorial to honour the memory of US Army Air Force personnel whose plane came down in a field in the village in 1944.

Nine of the members of the 306th Bomb Crew were killed when their plane crashed during their service in the UK during World War II.

An exhibition about the crew and the planned memorial will take place at Bletsoe Church on 28 – 30 October and is open from 10am – 2pm.

There will be maps of the site so visitors can make the short walk from the church to the field where the plane came down. It is free entry but donations are welcome to the fund for the Memorial.

You can find out more and make a donation at their Facebook page here.

“On the 26 April 1944, nine members of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) gave their lives in defence of this country,” said one of the organisers, Mary Laws.

“They were killed in Bletsoe on a field I own. During the past 30 years, I have picked up small parts of the plane. I think about these young men when I walk over the field and have always wanted to formally remember them.”

After an increase in interest in providing a memorial for these brave men, an enthusiastic group of volunteers has formed a steering group to discuss this project so that the village can honour them for their sacrifice.

“We have been in contact with, and have the support of the Aircrew Remembrance Society who have already undertaken excavation on the crash site in accordance with the licence issued in 2014 by the Ministry of Defence,” said Mary.

The group have put together this moving film to help raise awareness of their fundraiser:

 

The campaign has already raised over £500 of their £2,000 target and plans for the memorial are gathering pace.

“Once we have raised enough money, the memorial will most likely be in the village churchyard with nine oak trees planted on the perimeter of the site and a plaque on the field gate,” explained Mary.

The group has made contact with the families of three of the crew members and is hoping that the nephew of one of the airmen may be able to visit Bletsoe for the unveiling.

To find out more about the project and donate to the memorial fund, visit their Facebook fundraising page here.

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