On 20 February 1944 a B-17 bomber (Flying Fortress) which the crew called ‘Mi Amigo’ was part of the 305th Bombardment Group, US 8th Army Airforce based at Chelveston Airfield in Northamptonshire and ‘Mi Amigo’ was one of 700 American B-17 bombers involved in Operation Argument.
Operation Argument was an intensive one-week joint operation with RAF bomber command to destroy high value and heavily defended aircraft factories and Luftwaffe airfields in Alaborg Denmark and Leipzig Germany and the bombers had to run the gauntlet of extensive anti-aircraft artillery and German fighters.
On 22 February there was heavy fog over the Luftwaffe base in Alaborg and the target could not be seen from the air as the B-17’s were being attacked by swarms of German fighters during which three American aircraft were shot down and most of their crews were killed or captured. Due to the fog and continuous waves of German fighters the mission was aborted; the surviving aircraft began their return to England and once they reached the North Sea, they started jettisoning their bombs.
Mi Amigo had been extensively damaged and there were concerns one or more of its engines would seize up before reaching England, but the crew managed to dump their 4,000 lb bomb load over the sea.
According to historian Paul Allonby, Mi Amigo was several miles from its base in England and its engines which had all been damaged were fading quickly as its pilot Lt Kriegshauser steered his crippled B-17 out of thick clouds and found they were over a major city in Sheffield. As he looked for a suitable field for a crash landing, he could only see houses, roads and trees and then in the distance he saw a large field called Encliffee Park which was a public play area with thick woods behind it.
Lt Kriegshauser prepared his crew for a crash landing and started his final approach when he suddenly saw a large group of children playing in the field and immediately aborted the landing in the full knowledge his aircraft would crash into the woods.
After crashing the wreckage of the B-17 was scattered across the hillside, the aircraft was split into two and the front section was on fire and the crew were dead.
Several eyewitnesses say the aircraft circled the park for some time and it is believed the pilot sacrificed the lives of himself and his crew to avoid a group of children in the field.
Lt Kriegshauser was posthumously awarded the US Distinguished Flying Cross.
During the crash a large number of trees had been destroyed and in 1969 a grove of American Oakes was planted to honour the crew of Mi Amigo. There is also a memorial to the crew in the park and Tony Foulds who was one of the children in the park at the time of the crash continues to personally tend the memorial.
On 22 February 2019 after a long campaign by Tony Foulds, who is now 82 years old, British and American military aircraft took part in a flypast over Endcliffee Park in Sheffield to mark the 75th anniversary of the American crew of the bomber Mi Amigo.