CAMBRIDGE, England – Whether they perished on the fields of battle, the blackened skies above or out on the foamy brines, it’s remarkable how the commitment to fellow service members never waivers, particularly when paying respect to those who will never be forgotten.
On May 28, service members from across the United Kingdom will make their way to the Madingley American Cemetery Memorial Service in Cambridge, to remember the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who fell during World War II in defense of the U.K.
The drive to Madingley is a somber one, with scenic roads near the heaths, quaint cottages and farmlands of East Anglia slowly winding toward the cemetery. The distinct sound of flag’s cleat clanking against the flagpole drums cadence to the visiting forces, slowly beckoning the Airmen, gowned in pristinely pressed service dress uniforms, toward the ceremony soon to ensue.
Airmen filing among those ranks this Memorial Day will bear witness to messages of gratitude, inspirational speeches, hundreds of floral decorations, proud displays from RAF Mildenhall’s Honor Guard, a bagpiper and a U.S. Air Force flyover.
Why not make a day of it and pay tribute to some of the many heroes buried there afterward?
The following stories take a look at seven of the 3,812 American heroes laid to rest and another 5,127 names inscribed at the Wall of Missing at Madingley. Nearly 10,000 service members are buried or honored there, and each has their own unique tale.
Why not visit the fallen American heroes this Memorial Day, their legacy lives on through a free Great Britain and their stories should be remembered by the service members serving in the U.K. today.
Second Lt. Gustav D. Kjosness, 572nd Bomb Squadron, U.S. Army Air Forces
Stepping away from the Wall of Missing, airmen may make their way over to Plot F, Row 4, Grave 6, and find the headstone of 2nd Lt. Gustav D. Kjosness, a B-26 Marauder bombardier, who died while paving the success for the Normandy, France, landings.
Kjosness participated in the June 6, 1944 bombing missions against enemy ground targets. Two days later he was killed during his 32nd combat mission and was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (the second highest award in the U.S. Army, equal to the Air Force Cross).
Lt. Cmdr. Heywood Edwards, Atlantic Fleet, U.S. Navy
Visiting airmen may discover the name Lt. Cmdr. Heywood Edwards on the Wall of Missing.
Edwards assumed command of the USS Ruben James and in March 1941, joined a convoy force whose mission was ensuring the safe arrival of war materials to Britain.
On Oct. 31, 1941, while performing their escort duties, Edwards’ ship was torpedoed by a German U-562 submarine. Of the crew, 44 sailors survived but 115 were lost, including Edwards. His body was never recovered.
Tech. Sgt. Anthony Fidares, 303rd Bomb Group, U.S. Army Air Forces; and Sgt. Nicholas Fidares, 44th Bomb Group, U.S. Army Air Forces
By visiting the Wall of Missing, airmen can find the name Tech. Sgt. Anthony Fidares inscribed. His brother, Sgt. Nicholas Fidares is buried in Plot D, Row 6, Grave 23.
According to information provided by Arthur Brookes, Cambridge American Cemetery, while attempting to bomb an airfield at Esbjaerg, Denmark, Aug. 27, 1944, Anthony Fidares’s B-17 Flying Fortress received a direct hit to the fuselage, breaking the plane in half. Anthony Fidares and the other crew members were never recovered.
His brother, also an aviator, was on a mission to bomb a rail junction at Kaiserslautern, Germany, Dec. 28, 1944. Just prior to reaching the enemy coast, the B-24 Liberator he was traveling in encountered engine trouble. On the return to England, the plane lost another engine, crashing and detonating a bomb on board, killing Nicholas Fidares and the rest of the crew.
Cmdr. James E. Keys, Atlantic Fleet, U.S. Navy
Before leaving the Wall of Missing, perhaps Airmen will discover the name Cmdr. James E. Keys inscribed.
Keys, who was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously for his extraordinary heroism against the German submarines during the Battle of the Atlantic, was killed in action Dec. 23, 1943. His ship, the USS Leary, received three torpedo hits and Keys gave the order to abandon ship. Prior to leaving the ship himself, he checked to make sure all the sailors were off.
While doing his checks, Keys came across a young kitchen mess sailor whose life jacket was torn and useless. Keys removed his own life jacket and gave it to the young sailor. According to his citation, once all the sailors were safely off the ship, Keys calmly climbed over the side and was quickly swallowed up by the cold Atlantic waters. His body was lost at sea.
Staff Sgt. Merl W. Skinner, 301st Squadron, U.S. Army Air Forces
Staff Sgt. Merl W. Skinner, a C-47 Skytrain crewchief, can be found buried at Plot F, Row 4, Grave 6.
Skinner, seven crewmates and 13 medical patients crashed into cliffs while on an air evacuation to Prestwick, Scotland. Everyone on board, except Skinner, was killed instantly. He was rescued but passed away before he could receive medical treatment.
First Lt. Sidney Dunagan, 50th Squadron, U.S. Army Air Forces
In Plot E, Row 1, Grave 34, airmen can find the grave of 1st Lt. Sidney Dunagan, a pilot who perished June 6, 1944, while leading his element in the initial invasion of France.
After locating his drop zone, many of the paratroopers Dunagan was ferrying jumped into France. After clearing the drop zone, Dunagan’s crew chief notified him that not all the paratroopers got off. Disregarding his own safety, Dunagan turned his plane around and returned toward violent enemy ground fire as a single ship to deliver the remaining soldiers. Defenseless in an unarmored plane, Dunagan was directly hit by enemy ground fire, killing him instantly. Dunagan was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.