The ceremony acknowledged the historic development of Stansted by US Army Engineers in 1942, and its role from 1944 as operational base to two US Army Air Force bomber units.
The world-renowned US heroes - Buck Compton, Donald Malarkey, Ed Tipper and Bradford Freeman - were members of Easy Company’s 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. Their acts of bravery and courage were made famous in the Steven Spielberg TV series, Band of Brothers.
Joining them at the ceremony were serving UK soldiers from 13 Air Assault Support Regiment and 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment, based in Colchester. The Assistant US Army Attaché, Lieutenant Colonel William Woods from the American Embassy, plus representatives from the Royal British Legion and ex-military personnel now working at the airport were also present.
The wartime tribute, located in the main check-in area of the terminal building, consists of two commemorative plaques, presented in 1992 on the 50th anniversary of the airfield’s construction, that were displaced during the construction of Stansted’s terminal extension last year. They were joined today by a new ‘The early years’ display which fully charts the airport’s military history.
Welcoming all the eminent guests, Stansted’s Managing Director, Stewart Wingate, said:
“Stansted is very proud of its long and illustrious past, and the critical role the airfield played during World War Two as a US Army Air Force base.
“It’s a real honour for us to be joined by so many brave and distinguished service personnel, past and present, both from here in the UK and from the States. I would like to thank each and everyone of them for being with us as we pay tribute to the historic development of Stansted and acknowledge those early efforts that have ultimately culminated in the Stansted Airport we see today.
Neale Jouques OBE, Stansted’s Terminal General Manager and an ex-army officer decorated for his service in Afghanistan, was on hand to welcome the special guests and to pay tribute to their bravery and skill.
“With this legendary group of American heroes in the UK, and Stansted beginning life as a US Army Air Force base during the War, the opportunity to have them officially unveil this display was too good to miss. And it’s very poignant that the new home for these tributes that recognise Stansted’s wartime role should receive the blessing of real heroes involved in the conflict.
“These guys were on the ground in Normandy on D-Day, and overhead flew the aircraft of 344th Bomb Group which had taken off from the airfield here at Stansted.
“I’m also delighted that members of my own former Regiment and modern British airborne forces joined us to honour these men and illustrate that the close bond between the UK and US is still present today.”