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Dream comes true for the man who honoured his heroes: Pensioner weeps as thousands join him to watch fly-past to honour WWII airmen whose memorial he tended for decades - and BBC presenter Dan Walker who helped organise event even cries too (17 Pics)

A pensioner broke down in tears today after his lifelong dream was realised when thousands joined him for a flypast in memory of ten Second World War heroes whose plane crashed as they tried to avoid him and his friends.
Huge crowds applauded and cheered for Tony Foulds, 82, in emotional scenes as they gathered at Endcliffe Park in Sheffield to watch the aircraft pay tribute to the American crew of the B-17 Flying Fortress, nicknamed Mi Amigo.
Mr Foulds was eight years old in February 1944 when he witnessed the fireball crash in the park 75 years ago - claiming the lives of ten US airmen - as the pilot tried to avoid him and his friends.  
He has dedicated seven decades of his life to the memory of the airmen he never met, spending up to six days a week tending the memorial to them. Mr Foulds said: 'It's more than bravery, what they did. They saved me.'
The salute - including F-15E Strike Eagles from the USAF and an RAF Typhoon - was arranged after BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker met Mr Foulds during a walk in the park six weeks ago and started a social media campaign.
Walker used the hashtag #GetTonyAFlyPast, which also caught the attention of the Americans - and soon after Mr Foulds was told on live TV that his dream would come true - changing the hashtag to #TonyGotHisFlyPast.
Walker, who was watching from Tanzania where is working with Comic Relief, was left in tears as he watched on TV. This morning, #TonyGotAFlyPast was top trend on Twitter in the United Kingdom after the flypast took place.
An emotional Tony Foulds wipes away tears from his eyes as the military flypast comes over Endcliffe Park in Sheffield today
Mr Foulds (centre), 82, is applauded by Megan Leo (left), cousin of airman George Williams, and Jim Kriegshauser (right), nephew of John Kriegshauser, who both died in the Mi Amigo crash, at Endcliffe Park in Sheffield this morning




Today, Walker admitted he 'couldn't talk' during the flypast, and Mr Foulds waved at the planes as they performed the remembrance act. Many people had gathered with picnics and some wore Second World War uniforms.

Veterans could be seen in the park wearing medals, and coffee stalls and sandwich vans were enjoying a brisk trade on the cold but clear morning.
Shortly before the flypast started, Mr Foulds said: 'This is not for me, it's for them - my lads. They're family, they are family to me.'
Overcome by emotion, he wiped away tears as he reacted to the flypast. He said: 'Thank you, I can't believe all this. This is unbelievable to me.'
A crowd of thousands of people cheered following the flypast, with a clear day meaning the audience had a good view of the planes flying over.
Speaking earlier on BBC Breakfast, Mr Foulds told the crowds: 'Thank you very much for coming, it's lovely see you. I can't wait to get among you.'
The programme also showed footage of Mr Foulds meeting the families of some of the airmen who lost their lives in the crash 75 years ago. 
He said: 'I never thought I would ever meet any of the families of this pilot and crew.' The pensioner described them as 'lovely, lovely people'.
And Mr Foulds told Charlie Stayt and Steph McGovern on BBC Breakfast today: 'Thank you very much, I can't believe it. Yorkshire people, this is what they're like.
'It started off as more or less nothing, and to see how many people have actually looked and taken note - it's for these lads (the ten airmen).
'Dan (Walker) wouldn't tell me nothing (about today's memorial). I have no idea what's happening. He's kept it away from me as usual.'
Speaking to the crowd, he said: 'Thank you very much for coming, it's lovely to see you - can't wait to get among you.' 
Mr Foulds broke down in tears on BBC Breakfast as the names of the 10 airmen were read out at the memorial. The Last Post was also played.
Mr Foulds had previously said of the airmen: 'If it hadn't have been for them, I wouldn't be here with my family. It's more than bravery, what they did. They saved me, and I mean saved me.'
Speaking from Tanzania, Dan Walker told Mr Foulds: 'The last six weeks have been remarkable from my point of view. 
'From you and I meeting on a dog walk in the park in the first week of January to me asking how you were - that's how it all started - you telling me this unbelievable story and saying you'd love a flypast for the 75th anniversary, and here we are now.
'I know you jokingly asked everybody for a tenner who are there at the park today, but it's not about the money, it's never been about you.  
'Tony, it's always been about those ten men who you think saved your life 75 years ago.'
Mr Foulds replied: 'I know they've saved my life, I didn't just think it - they did. If it hadn't been for them, I wouldn't be here for my family.' 
He added: 'It's strange - I can't believe this, this is unbelievable.'




The wreckage of the Mi Amigo at Endcliffe Park in Sheffield on February 22, 1944 following the fatal crash
The ten airmen who died, from back row: Robert Mayfield, Vito Ambrosio, Harry Estabrooks, George Williams, Charles Tuttle, Maurice Robbins Front Row: John Kriegshauser, Lyle Curtis, Melchor Hernandez, John Humphrey

Mr Foulds said he and the other children were in the park 75 years ago because boys from two rival junior schools were fighting.
He said the Mi Amigo approached low from the Nether Edge area of the city in an obviously bad way, with only one engine, and the crew would have seen the large expanse of grass as a possible landing place.
But when the pilot, Lieutenant John Kriegshauser, saw the children, he decided to circle.
Mr Foulds said that when the bomber came round again, the pilot was waving his arms as a warning but, as they did know what he meant, they just waved back.
He said the bomber crashed after it came round for a third time, just missing the roofs of nearby houses.
Mr Foulds said: 'Because we were still there, he had to make a decision - 'Shall I land on there and hope I don't hit these kids or try and get over the trees with this one engine?'.
'Of course, he tried to get over the trees. The engine failed and it dropped straight into the ground.'
Asked why he devotes his life to the men's memory, Mr Foulds said: 'Because they saved my life. I wouldn't have been here if it hadn't been for them.' He said: 'They're my family.'
Speaking last week about the memorial, the pensioner said: 'I can't put into words how I feel. I am going to be in tears all day, there's no doubt about that.' 
Aircraft that took part included F-15E Strike Eagles from RAF Lakenheath; a KC-135 Stratotanker, a MC-130J Commando II and a CV-22 Osprey from RAF Mildenhall, as well as a Typhoon and a Dakota from RAF Coningsby.
Lieutenant Andrew Knighten, the weapons systems officer in one of the F-15E Strike Eagles taking part in the salute said on Wednesday: 'It's pretty humbling, honestly, just for everyone that's gone before us and for us to get to fly over and just honour them.'
A four-ship of F-15E Strike Eagles also flew over Cambridge American Cemetery, where three of the Mi Amigo crew are interred, on the way back to base.
Speaking to the Press Association following the flypast at Endcliffe Park, Mr Foulds said of the airmen: 'They've done this, and they're as happy as anything now.'
He added: 'It's taken 75 years for them to be remembered and what a day, what a day to remember them.'
Mr Foulds said that his only wish now is to travel to the United States to meet some of the crew's families.

How US pilot saved Tony and his friends from death

Lieutenant John Kriegshauser, a 23-year-old pilot from St Louis, Missouri, was on his 15th mission on February 22, 1944 - and on board with him were nine young men from every corner of America.
The mission was a daring daylight raid on the Aalborg airfield in occupied Denmark, a key fighter base that protected Germany from Allied bombers. Mi Amigo was hit in the attack and limped back across the North Sea, trying to get to a base in Chelveston, Northamptonshire.
But the weather was poor. When the plane broke through the clouds looking for somewhere to land, it was over Sheffield, 80 miles north west.
Tony Foulds was eight years old and had gathered with other children for a schoolyard brawl at Endcliffe Park, an oasis of green surrounded by terraced houses. 
After five years of war, including German attacks on Sheffield's steel and armaments plants, the boys were accustomed to hearing planes. But the sound of this aircraft wasn't right - with one engine working, spitting oil and daylight visible through the tail.
The pilot circled when he saw the stretch of green, and waved his arms at the children. They waved back. Years later, Mr Foulds realised he was trying to get them to run out of the way.
The plane circled three times, the last time coming in so low it was just above the houses' chimneys. The pilot could have tried to land on the green, but he didn't. He turned his plane into the nearby woods, tried to rev up his only working engine and failed to gain altitude. The plane crashed and there were no survivors.
Mr Foulds has been wracked by guilt ever since, over why he could go on with his life, to have children and grandchildren, when the men on that plane were not.
 
Wreaths tribute to Mi Amigo crewmen buried in American cemetery 
Wreaths have been laid at the graves of three American airmen who died when their plane crashed over Sheffield in 1944.
Three of the 10 crew of the B-17 Flying Fortress, Mi Amigo, are interred at Cambridge American Cemetery. The seven other crew members who died have been repatriated.

The headstones of Staff Sergeant Harry W Estabrooks, Sergeant Maurice D Robbins and Sergeant Charles H Tuttle were dressed on Friday with sand from Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.
The grave of Staff Sergeant Harry Estabrooks is decorated with sand from Omaha beach in Normandy at the Cambridge American Cemetery today
John McCarthy from the Royal British Legion pays his respects at the grave of Sergeant Maurice Robbins at the Cambridge American Cemetery today
An American and British flag was positioned by each of the three graves, along with a photograph of each crew member.
Wreaths were laid at each grave simultaneously as a memorial flypast soared over Endcliffe Park in Sheffield.
The ceremony was attended by local Royal British Legion members, who had the wreaths specially made after they were contacted by a branch in Sheffield.
Kevin Swann, secretary of the Sawston and Pampisford branch in Cambridgeshire, said: 'It's a fitting tribute to the men but it's also paid tribute to all who lost their lives and are buried on this site, and to the 1.6 million American service personnel that were over in this country during the Second World War.'
The 69-year-old said the branch was 'only too pleased' to help with tributes.
Cambridge American Cemetery is the only Second World War American Cemetery in Britain.
It honours almost 9,000 American servicemen and women who lost their lives during the conflict, with 3,000 buried at the cemetery and more than 5,000 remembered on the Wall of the Missing.
A four-ship of F15E Strike Eagle jets from RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk was due to fly over Cambridge American Cemetery as the planes returned to base from Sheffield.

What happened was not the fault of children in the park, crash airman's relative says

The family of one of the ten airmen who died on the Mi Amigo said they do not want Tony Foulds to blame himself for the tragedy.
Mr Foulds has always said he feels deep guilt for the bomber crash as he believes the pilot crashed into a wooded area as he was trying to avoid him and his young friends on the large expanse of grass in Endcliffe Park.
Today, talking about how his ashes will eventually be placed at the monument to the ten men, Mr Foulds said: 'Then I shall be able to apologise for killing them. Which is what I did, no matter what everybody says. If it hadn't been for me being on there they would have had happy lives.'
But Megan Leo, whose cousin Melchor Hernanadez died in the crash, said: 'I don't want him to feel guilty and don't think my family would want him to feel guilty. What happened that day was not the fault of the children in the park.
'Everyone did the best that they could. Tony has been amazing and loved this park and loved the crew in ways we didn't even know about.'
The American student, who is studying in London, said: 'We have nothing but absolute love in our hearts for Tony and view him as an amazing man and part of our extended family as well.'
The 23-year-old said she is the same age as her cousin, who was a bombardier on the Mi Amigo and gave the aircraft its nickname. She said he was originally from Texas but his family moved to Los Angeles in the Great Depression.
He was drafted in the USAF during the war and was extremely proud to be promoted to second lieutenant when he was just 21.
Miss Leo said: 'Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that today would be as big as it actually was. Ten thousand people. Being able to be here and to meet Tony and thank him for his service to the memorial. 
'And to be here in the park where it happened and my cousin died, there aren't the words for it. I'm so grateful to be able to represent my family on this really important day.'

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