Thousands mark 80th D-Day anniversary at air show

Thousands of people are attending a two-day air show to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

World War Two aircraft have taken to the skies, joined by historical re-enactors on the ground, at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) at Duxford, Cambridgeshire.

Air show event manager Phil Hood said: "So many people gave their lives on D-Day and we want to make sure we do that justice."

He is expecting about 40,000 people to attend the Duxford Summer Air Show: D-Day 80 weekend.

The D-Day landings, also known as Operation Overlord, was one of the most decisive military campaigns of World War Two.

It saw 156,000 Allied troops arrive in Normandy on 6 June 1944 for a combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France.

At this point, Duxford airfield was the headquarters of the 78th Fighter Group of the United States Army Air Forces' 8th Air Force, flying fighter aircraft such as P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs.

"Only a very few of the objectives for D-Day were reached at the end of 6 June, but it was enough for the Allies to get a foothold into Europe to then go further," said historical re-enactor Mark Bailey.

He runs an educational project called Discover D-Day, based in Attleborough, Norfolk, which is "mainly about the American Airborne and Army in the last year of the Second World War".

"We cover a very wide range of things," he said. "We cover a lot of things to do with engineers, we talk about explosives, the way weapons were developed during the war.

"We also talk about poeple who were forgotten, so the people who would do all the clerical work, paying of the troops making sure they had the right equipment in the right place at the right time."

Brian Johnson, who travelled from Michigan in the United States to attend, said: "My grandfather was a B-24 captain in the 15th Air Force, stationed out of Italy and Libya, so to be able to see something like this come back to life is really unique and a special treat."

"The preservation of history is very important to make sure it doesn't repeat itself and these aircraft are probably not going to be airworthy forever.

"It's really quite a special thing to get the chance to see them operate while they still are."

He was accompanying his father Donald Johnson, who admitted he found the event "emotional" as it reminded him of his World War Two pilot dad.

Mr Johnson, a captain in the Civil Air Patrol from Chicago, Illinois, wanted "to catch this incredible event that you have going on here".

He added it was important to remember what was achieved by the people who took part in D-Day - "what they did was beyond belief".

Jack McCombie, a World War Two re-enactor who dresses as a US pilot, wanted to "commemorate D-Day and honour the sacrifice they went through 80 years" ago.

He said: "I came here from Wolverhampton today with my family, who are also re-enacting.

"Remembering D-Day is very important and a lot of the future generation don't see that, especially the scale and what they were went through."

A fleet of Dakotas will take part in the flypasts at the event, as will Spitfires - which flew out of Duxford during the Battle of Britain.

Mr Hood said the air show had taken months of planning and the museum had been in discussions with the United States-based D-Day Squadron of Dakotas about its attendance for two years.

"A lot of the activities on the ground here have a D-Day theme, with lots of living history groups recreating how Duxford would have felt during D-Day, and from a flying perspective it focuses on the commemorating of D-Day but sticks true to the Duxford Summer Air Show being a little bit of something for everyone," Mr Hood added.

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