S: Shepard Visit to Duxford, June 2011
BC: In April 1943 Duxford airfield was handed over to the United States 8th Air Force, which had begun to arrive in Britain the previous May. RAF Duxford then became Base 357 and the headquarters of the 78th Fighter Group. On D-Day, 6 June 1944, the long-awaited beginning of the Allied invasion of occupied Europe, every available 78th Fighter Group Thunderbolt provided air cover to the Allied invasion fleet as it crossed the Channel. RAF Duxford was officially handed back to the Royal Air Force on 1 December 1945.
FC: Tom Shepard Visit to Duxford, England | June 2011
1: David Lee, former Curator at the American Air Museum, outside the guard room with Tom Shepard. It is immediately apparent that David is delighted to see Tom again after many years. | Wednesday 22 June 2011 0900 hrs Tom Shepard arrives for his day-long visit to Duxford Air Base with Bud and Eileen Townsend, son-in-law and daughter. (Left, Duxford employee enters Guard Room.)
2: Lt Thomas W. Shepard, Jr. - Then and Now
3: Visitor's Pass for 22 June 2011 and Map of Duxford Imperial War Museum and Airfield Complex
4: Tom is descended upon by "papa-razzi." Official base photographer snaps away for the historical archives and public relations office.
5: Conservation technicians employed by Stephen Grey, owner of The Fighter Group, enthusiastically show off their handiwork on a vintage P-47G Thunderbolt.
7: Flanked by the conservation team,Tom, the WW II pilot, enjoying the limelight! | Tom shares stories of his flying years at Duxford as a P-47 pilot.
8: Reaching up, Tom grabs the handhold that pilots used to hoist themselves aboard the aircraft. Tom named the aircraft he flew "Strato-Viking." Artists painted a viking ship on the nose.
9: Climbing aboard--almost 70 years back in time--for a closer inspection.
11: Fuel tanks made of plastic-impregnated (laminated) paper could not store fuel for an extended period of time, but they worked quite well for the time it took to fly a single mission. These tanks were cheaper, lighter, and were useless to the enemy if recovered after being dropped. | Not only did they break apart, but they did not provide the enemy with any reusable materials that could be scavenged for their own war effort. With the increased fuel capacity, the P-47 was now able to perform escort missions deep into enemy territory. A drawback to their use was that fighters could not land with the tanks in place because of the hazard of rupture and explosion.
12: 42-7944P-47D 83 HL-V Shepard Lt. Thomas W | 78th Fighter Group | 83rd Squadron | Insignia of the "Duxford Eagles" | Eighth Air Force
13: Personal insignia of 1st Lt Thomas W Shepard of the 83rd Fighter Squadron, on the side of his Republic P-47D, 42-7944, HL-V "Strato Viking". | Damage to the HL-V was repaired and it continued to fly. | Military review formation.
14: Republic Aviation's P-47 Thunderbolt, also known as the "Jug", was the largest, heaviest, and most expensive fighter aircraft in history to be powered by a single reciprocating engine. It was heavily armed with eight .50-caliber machine guns, four per wing. When fully loaded, the P-47 weighed up to eight tons. The P-47, based on the powerful Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine, was very effective in high-altitude air-to-air combat and proved especially adept at ground attack. Called informally, "Little Friends," the 78th flew many missions to escort B-17/B-24bombers that attacked industries, submarine yards and docks, V-weapon sites, and other targets on the Continent. The unit also engaged in counter-air activities and on numerous occasions strafed and dive-bombed airfields, trains, vehicles, barges, tugs, canal locks, barracks, and troops.
15: Coincidentally, the day of Tom's visit was "WWII Day" at Duxford. Buses unloaded a few thousand school kids and teachers for an educational field trip. This young schoolboy, spotted Tom and was so excited to learn that he actually flew a real P-47 in the war. He waited so patiently for an autograph. While Tom is signing, he looks on in awe of the American pilot that brings life to the stories in the history books at school. | David Lee, our guide and host. | Tom, the "rock star" regales his fan club. | Tom with his son-in-law & personal assistant, Bud Townsend (center). | STAR ATTRACTION!
16: The airfield where the "wild blue yonder" began over 70 years ago for Tom--and continues to enthrall and educate today as an operating airfield and part of the Imperial War Museum system.
17: A little heaven on earth... | Position 52 05.07'N, 000 07.55'E (7 nm south of Cambridge).
19: Though the Officer's Mess stands disused and is a shadow of its former state, it contains within its walls the stories and glories of those who served here-- entertainment, dances, food and drink!
20: Officer's Quarters with view of Lt Shepard's room. | Original WW I wooden hanger ceiling view. | Original WW I hanger. View of wooden trusses. | Facade of American Air Museum. Wall of windows inserted after aircraft moved into place. | Original flight control tower still in use today.
21: War Operations Room reconstructed from photos and personal interviews with accuracy to its 1940 appearance.
22: Tom reading plaque given by 78th Fighter Group to dedicate their time served at Duxford. | David Lee and Tom at Battle of Britain exhibit. | Queen Elizabeth greets Tom Shepard at dedication ceremony. Photo snapped by Jeanne C. Shepard, spouse of Tom.
23: Above is the diagram of aircraft inside the American Air Museum. To the left is pictured the glass memorial to the 78th Fighter Group. David Lee points with his umbrella to a fighter plane. The complete sculpture wall has 52 glass panels, etched with the outlines of aircraft (to a scale of 1:240) missing in action that were flown by American air forces, a total of 7,031 aircraft.
25: The American Cemetery, Cambridge, England
26: Wall of States' Insignia surrounding the doors. | Chapel doors with bronze bas-relief wartime detail on teak.
27: IN PROUD AND GRATEFUL MEMORY OF THOSE MEN OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY AIR FORCE WHO FROM THESE FRIENDLY ISLES FLEW THEIR FINAL FLIGHT AND MET THEIR GOD. THEY KNEW NOT THE HOUR THE DAY NOR THE MANNER OF THEIR PASSING. WHEN FAR FROM HOME THEY WERE CALLED TO JOIN THAT HERIOIC BAND OF AIRMEN WHO HAD GONE BEFORE. MAY THEY REST IN PEACE.
28: Chapel wall with marble and stone map depicting the Atlantic theatre of war. Shown are sea routes with types of craft which bore soldiers and munitions to Europe from the United States and also the continuous air assault routes taken by the US and RAF over Europe. The map is 30 feet long, 18 feet high.
29: Exterior walls at the chapel and cemetery marking sites lent by the people of the UK.to the Armed Forces of the US in support of their military assaults 1941-45 and showing the landing routes of the Normandy Invasion.
30: At the top of the wall above the names, running its full length, is the following extract from the dedication by President Eisenhower of the Golden Book enshrined in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London: THE AMERICANS, WHOSE NAMES HERE APPEAR, WERE PART OF THE PRICE THAT FREE MEN FOR THE SECOND TIME IN THIS CENTURY HAVE BEEN FORCED TO PAY TO DEFEND HUMAN LIBERTY AND RIGHTS ALL WHO SHALL HEREAFTER LIVE IN FREEDOM WILL BE HERE REMINDED THAT TO THESE MEN AND THEIR COMRADES WE OWE A DEBT TO BE PAID WITH GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE OF THEIR SACRIFICE AND THE HIGH RESOLVE THAT THE CAUSE FOR WHICH THEY DIED SHALL LIVE ETERNALLY.