Briton Tony Foulds, 82, has a better appreciation than most about the importance of living every day to its fullest. At age 8, he watched St. Louisan John Kriegshauser sacrifice his life so Foulds could live. He's tried to make every day count since then.
The enduring story of his encounter with Kriegshauser, retold Sunday by the Post-Dispatch's Christopher Ave, is an inspiring tale of heroism. But it's also a tale of one man's lifelong determination never to let heroes' memory fade into history unheralded or forgotten.
Exactly 75 years ago Friday, Lt. Kriegshauser was piloting an American B-17 Flying Fortress, nicknamed "Mi Amigo," after a World War II bombing mission against German occupation forces in Denmark. The plane, already damaged by anti-aircraft fire during the raid, came under attack by German fighter planes while returning to England.
The survival of Kriegshauser and his nine-member crew depended on a last-ditch emergency landing on an open field they spotted in Sheffield, England.
Foulds was 8 at the time when he and some other boys were gathered on that same field. Suddenly, the limping B-17 came into view. Foulds, along with his friends, noticed Mi Amigo's crew waving furiously. The boys simply waved back.
In his last moments, Kriegshauser realized the boys had misinterpreted the crew's signals to move so the plane could land. In selfless sacrifice, Kriegshauser changed course. Mi Amigo gave out before he could attempt another landing. The crash into nearby woods killed all 10 aboard.
Foulds, even at that young age, realized that whoever was at the controls of the B-17 had saved his and the other boys' lives. Ever since, he has dedicated his life to preserving Kriegshauser's memory.
Last month, Foulds was tending to a memorial, erected in 1969, that stands in Sheffield's Endcliffe Park for Mi Amigo's crew. A man walking his dog stopped and asked what he was doing. Foulds shared the story, not knowing that the man was BBC newscaster Dan Walker, who promptly launched a Twitter campaign to fulfill Foulds' one wish: an honorary overflight by the British military to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Mi Amigo's sacrifice.
On Friday, the British Royal Air Force and the U.S. Air Force will perform a joint overflight. Kriegshauser's nephew, James, a doctor and St. Louis resident, will attend along with other members of the family.
Wars too often are remembered as conglomerations of tragedy, destruction and suffering. But we of surviving generations must never forget the moments of courage and heroism that distinguish greatness from barbarism. Lt. John Kriegshauser and his crew died the deaths of heroes so complete strangers — a group of boys — could live. The awesome weight of that memory and responsibility fell on young Tony Foulds. And he bears it, even at age 82, like an Olympian.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH