World War II – The Americans in Sudbury 1944/45


“The New Year’s Eve I spent with the 486th in England is the only one I remember vividly: it will remain as a vivid memory as long as I live. On December 31st, it was my turn to be both Officer of the Day, and as part of the S-2 team, to prepare the briefing for the mission to be flown on January 1st. The job of officer of the Day at Station 174 was the most perfunctory of any place where I was stationed. All I had to do was to wear the armband (OD) and the sidearm and be driven at midnight to inspect the posts, which I did without getting out of the jeep.

Promptly at midnight, I interrupted my mission briefing preparation and went outside the War Room to go on my OD round in the jeep. What was going on? I was astonished to see that the sky, the Base, and the village of Great Waldingfield were ablaze with light: lit up by flares that seemed to come from all parts of the field. The light show was simply beautiful – but eerie.

My first thought was that the Officer of the Day would be expected to do something about all that commotion. But inasmuch as it was an accomplished fact – did you ever try to put out a flare in the air, much less dozens of them – there was nothing I could do. It was obvious that the light show had been carefully planned and that a lot of people had been in on it. The MP was very nonchalant and said he thought the same thing was happening at other airfields, too. Perhaps the MP’s were among the conspirators. Leave it to the Yanks to celebrate the beginning of the New Year with pyrotechnics in the traditional way, even though they were far from home and in a blackout zone!”