American veteran who narrowly avoided death in Second World War tells story at IWM Duxford
PUBLISHED: 17:57 03 November 2014 | UPDATED: 17:57 03 November 2014
An American veteran who narrowly avoided death in the Second World War has unveiled an aircraft that tells his stirring story.
IWM Duxford’s painstakingly conserved P-51 Mustang – which will take pride of place in the redeveloped American Air Museum – was revealed by 90-year-old former ace airman Huie Lamb on Thursday.
Huie arrived at Duxford at the age of 20 to serve with the 82nd Fighter Squadron, 78th Fighter Group of the United States Army Air Forces in August 1944.
On his first mission in the aircraft Etta Jeanne on December 29, 1944, Huie was one of the few pilots to survive when an engine fire forced them to bail out and parachute into the icy cold waters of the North Sea.
He was rescued by another aircraft pilot who spotted him in the water, but a doctor later told him that had he been in the sea for five minutes longer, he would have died.
Huie amassed more than 200 hours of combat flying, destroying an official count of 5½ aircraft in the course of his 61 missions.
The 78th Fighter Group flew a total of 450 missions out of RAF Duxford with a loss of 128 pilots.
“I always enjoy coming back here,” Huie said. “I particularly enjoy visiting the Officers’ Mess, I have a lot of fond memories of being there.
“We had a guy who played the piano at night and we did some singing, although we weren’t very good singers!
“I enjoy visiting the squadron facilities where, when we weren’t flying, we’d read tech orders or play cards.
“Our squadron was based right next to the briefing room, it was a good feeling to go there again.”
IWM Duxford’s conserved and repainted P-51 Mustang represents Huie’s second aircraft Etta Jeanne II, named after – like his first aircraft which did not survive – his younger sister.
Of the newly-conserved P-51 Mustang, Huie said: “It’s unbelievable. I never dreamed I’d see it.
“When I think of all the hard work that has happened to put it in the condition it’s in, it’s heartwarming.”
The P-51 Mustang will form the centrepiece for Huie Lamb’s story, told as part of the new interpretation in the American Air Museum, when it reopens in 2016.