WWII U.S. airmen who died saving British children honored with flyover 75 years on

A special flyover took place Friday to commemorate 10 U.S. airmen killed when a crippled B-17G bomber crashed in Sheffield, England, during World War II.

The aircraft came down on Feb. 22, 1944, as the pilot was apparently maneuvering the plane to avoid a group of children gathered in a park, according to reports.

Thousands of people witnessed the flyover which involved 10 U.S. and British Air Force planes, the BBC reported. Attendees included relatives of some of the aircrew. The flyover concluded with a missing man formation.

In this image provided by the Kriegshauser family and taken on Oct. 22, 1943 shows the crew posing for a photo in front of a training plane in Geiger Field in Spokane, Washington. They are back row from left: Stf Sgt. Harry Estabrooks, Sgt. Maurice Robbins, Stf Sgt. Robert Mayfield, Sgt. Vito Ambrosio, Sgt. Charles Tuttle and Sgt. George M. Williams. Front row from left: 2nd Lt. Melchor Hernandez, 2nd Lt. John W. Humphrey, 2nd Lt. Lyle Curtis holding the mascot Peanuts and Lt. John G. Kriegshauser.

In this image provided by the Kriegshauser family and taken on Oct. 22, 1943 shows the crew posing for a photo in front of a training plane in Geiger Field in Spokane, Washington. They are back row from left: Stf Sgt. Harry Estabrooks, Sgt. Maurice Robbins, Stf Sgt. Robert Mayfield, Sgt. Vito Ambrosio, Sgt. Charles Tuttle and Sgt. George M. Williams. Front row from left: 2nd Lt. Melchor Hernandez, 2nd Lt. John W. Humphrey, 2nd Lt. Lyle Curtis holding the mascot Peanuts and Lt. John G. Kriegshauser. (The Kriegshauser family via AP)

Tony Foulds was eight in 1944 when he saw the bomber’s pilot Lt. John Kriegshauser wave his arms, trying to clear the children from the patch of green, Stars & Stripes reported.

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Foulds waved back.

Tony Foulds tends to a memorial honouring 10 U.S. airmen who died in a plane crash in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield, England, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. Foulds was just a kid running around in the park on Feb. 22, 1944 when a U.S. Air Force crew decided to crash and die rather than take the chance of hitting them. He's dreamed of honoring them for decades.

Tony Foulds tends to a memorial honouring 10 U.S. airmen who died in a plane crash in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield, England, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. Foulds was just a kid running around in the park on Feb. 22, 1944 when a U.S. Air Force crew decided to crash and die rather than take the chance of hitting them. He's dreamed of honoring them for decades. (AP)

Years later Foulds realized why Krigshauser was waving and that he’d chosen to sacrifice his own crew’s life rather than risk the children’s, the paper reported.

“They could have saved themselves,” Foulds told the Associated Press, according to the paper. “I’ve put myself in their place many a time and thought if I was wanting to land and there were children on, I would think to myself, ‘Well, I’ll land and hope I don’t hit them.’”

The B-17, known as Mi Amigo, was hit by German fire on a bombing run over Demark.

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Foulds, now 82, has tended to a memorial honoring the Mi Amigo crew for decades.

F-15 planes seen from Endcliffe Park in Sheffield, as warplanes from Britain and the United States stage a flyover in tribute to ten dead US airmen. Tony Foulds was just a child playing in the park on Feb. 22, 1944, when a U.S. Air Force crew decided to crash and die rather than take the chance of hitting the playing children.

F-15 planes seen from Endcliffe Park in Sheffield, as warplanes from Britain and the United States stage a flyover in tribute to ten dead US airmen. Tony Foulds was just a child playing in the park on Feb. 22, 1944, when a U.S. Air Force crew decided to crash and die rather than take the chance of hitting the playing children. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)

He long pushed for a flyover to draw attention to the aircrew’s sacrifice.

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“That was worth waiting 66 years for,” Foulds said with tears in his eyes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.