‘Screaming Eagle’ Veterans visit Upottery Airfield
During the evening of July 10th 2008 a member of the Trust received notification and a request for help. Staff of “Valor Magazine” based in America, planned a visit to the Upottery Airfield at Smeatharpe on July 15th bringing with them veterans of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.
Today these veterans along with others are best known as the “Band of Brothers” after Spielberg serialized their WWII exploits into a TV series.
Although the Trust had no more than two working days to make arrangements, they were able, with the complete cooperation of everyone involved, including the farmer owners of runway 27, to provide the warmest of welcomes by having C-47 43-15211 parked at Upottery to mark the veterans visit.
In so far as we know Donald Malarkey and Earl McClung are the only veterans, out of well over two thousand men who were transported to Normandy by the 439th Troop Carrier Group during the D-Day invasions June 5-7th 1944 to have made a return visit. However over the years since WWII veterans of the 439th TCGp have made a number of visits.
For C-47 43-15211, this was its second visit to Upottery since WWII. The Trust along with the owners of the airfield and Wings Venture owners of the C-47 reunited the plane with the old airfield during 2007.
This aircraft was one of eighty-one that carried the 2nd Battalion 506th PIR over to Normandy, leaving just before midnight June 5th 1944. With the task dropping paratroops behind Utah beach to help secure a corridor inland and fight of counter attacks enabling the sea-borne force to advance after their landing at dawn.
During this mission the 439th TCGp lost three aircraft including one flown by 1st Lt Harold A. Capelutto killing every one on board including Lt Thomas Meehan who was the commanding officer of Easy Company. Under battle conditions he was succeeded by Lt Richard Winter and thus the “Band of Brothers” legend was started.
Before leaving, the two veterans laid a wreath at the Upottery memorial to their fallen comrades and had the opportunity to meet many local people including British WWII veterans. This historic event concluded with two members of the Trust who lived in the area during WWII, taking the veterans for a meal at the York Inn, Churchingford before escorting the party safely back to their hotel at Taunton.
Memorial Service at Upottery Airfield Smeatharpe, 8th June 2008
On Sunday the 8th of June 2008 at 12:15am representatives of the Upottery and Churchstanton Royal British Legion along with members of the Trust gathered at the old sentry box airfield memorial at Moonhayes Cross.
On parade was a bugler from the Old Comrades Association of the Devon and Dorset Regiment the proceedings were kindly over seen by the Rev John Woollam after his normal Sunday morning service at the Newhouse Chapel that had been attended by members of the Trust.
It was fantastic to see that tributes had been already laid, among them an outstanding floral arrangement from members of a Living History Re-enactment Group.
The service was conducted in the traditional manner and was enhanced by the presence of two of the sixty-eight school children from the Upottery Primary School who were involved in the dedication of the Memorial Plaque on June 6th 2005. They laid a poppy wreath on behalf of all who attended
The children were Harvey Arscott and Natalie Sampson who having completed their education at Upottery Primary now attend the Honiton Community College.
Both of them are from families who have lived in the area for many years, they carried out their duty with dignity, Natalie who is a member of the St Johns Ambulance Brigade was attired in her uniform for the occasion, The British Legion and members of the Trust are most grateful to them and all those who attended including the two motorist who voluntarily stopped for the two minutes silence during this annual event.