WHO WERE THE YOUNG MEN WHO SALUTED?
It was May, 1986. The bus was pulling away from the parking lot at Madingly, the American cemetery near Cambridge, where many thousands of 8th Air Force airmen lay peacefully ... reminiscent of the skies after the battle.
Some in the bus boarded with moist eyes after visiting the starkly beautiful grounds and the magnificent Wall of the Missing ... and taking part in a memorable ceremony honoring the 398th dead and missing.
And watching the departing bus, each saluting as if honored guests are aboard, were two younger men. Too young to be WWII veterans and too old to be children belonging to veterans.
Who were these young men? They were seen wandering about the cemetery with the rest of us. And they were also seen the day before during the festivities at Nuthampstead. Sorta mid-40ish wearing 8th Air Force caps.
Wally Blackwell, the former 601st pilot from Maryland, was more inquisitive than the rest of us. He asked, and they replied: Roger Bradley and Ralph Ambrose. A couple of 12-13 year-olds who lived south of the field in a village called Hare Street. They had been sent there from their homes in London during the blitz and they knew Nuthampstead and the airfield intimately.
They sat on haystacks in the nearby fields and watched the planes come and go. They well remember the day Larry DeLancey and Phil Stahlman landed their nose-blown 601st Fortress, one of the epic 398th dramas.
Blackwell, in his conversations with them, discovered they have a strong attachment to the 398th, albeit they have not been a part of the Friends of the Eighth contingent. They were delighted to have been able to share a brief time with Blackwell, Ralph Hall and a couple of others ... older folks now, but young tigers when Bradley and Ambrose were watching from the haystacks.
Bradley operates a chauffeur service in London. Ambrose, who became an American citizen, is an overseas representative for Atlantic Aviation in Delaware. He lives in Welling, near London.
Each made a special effort to be with the visiting 398th bunch on their England-France visit last May. We all felt that Nuthampstead was special. With guys like Roger and Ralph displaying such pride and affection, is it any wonder?
Transcribed for the 398th Web Pages by Dawne Dougherty.