Flying Fortress takes to skies in memory of US dead of WWII
SALLY B, Europe's only airworthy B-17 Flying Fortress was seen trailing through bright skies of Belfast at low altitude on Saturday to commemorate the deaths of the 148 American servicemen stationed in Northern Ireland, who "gave the ultimate sacrifice" during World War II.
The Sally B did numerous fly-bys of the cemetery on the Rocky Road, in the Castlereagh hills, where American and British veterans, and local politicians marked the official opening and dedication of a specially commissioned monument at the site of the former Lisnabreeny American Military Cemetery.
The ten and a half acre site was used between 1943 and 1948 to bury the servicemen from the US Army Air Force, US Army and the US Navy.
At the end of World War II the bodies of the service men were exhumed and were either returned to the USA at the request of their families, or transferred to the permanent war cemetery in Cambridge.
The famous red brick gateway on the Rocky Road was left as the only reminder of the whereabouts of the cemetery until the official unveiling of the monument there on Saturday. The granite monument bears the names of the 148 men who were buried at the cemetery.
During World War II the site of the momument was used as an anti-aircraft artillery position, with the cemetery in a field just east of the position and billeting for personel to the south.
The B-17 bomber used in the display, Sally B, is the very same plane used to represent the Memphis Belle in the 1990 film of the same name.
With a number of .50 cal guns still bristling across the plane, its four engines thrumming in the air and the pilot's ability to maneuver nimbly, it was an imposing sight to see almost 70 years after World War II ended.
Acting American Consul General Gabrielle Moseley said: "We are very grateful to Castlereagh Borough Council for acknowledging the legacy of US military personnel who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the allied war effort.
"The recent restoration of the cemetery underpins our shared history and special ties of kinship, and we appreciate those involved in the ceremony".
Royal Air Force Air Vice Marshall David M Niven said: "I am proud to be asked to place a wreath, on behalf of all three Services, at this dedication ceremony.
"We are, in mid-September, commemorating the service and sacrifice of our servicemen during the Battle of Britain, a battle which prevented the invasion of the United Kingdom.
"We are also remembering the sacrifice of our American allies who served and died, here, in Northern Ireland.
"They came from the United States to fight alongside us, in our hour of need, when the rest of Europe had been over-run by the Nazi war machine."
The Mayor of Castlereagh, Councillor David Drysdale said: "A dedicated monument has been erected as part of the project, which will provide an opportunity for the people of Castlereagh to visit the site for generations to come and learn more about these brave servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom today."