KEFLAVIK AIR STATION, Iceland --
Officials unveiled a memorial monument May 3 dedicated to Lt. Gen. Frank Maxwell Andrews and crew members of the B-24 Liberator, “Hot Stuff,” which crashed on nearby Mount Fagradalsfjall, Iceland, 75 years before.
Andrews, members of his support staff and crew members died in the crash. Only one crew member survived.
“I like to think that the monument not only represents the crew of ‘Hot Stuff,’ General Andrews, [and] the passengers, but also the 26,000 men of the 8th Air Force who lost their lives during WWII,” said Jim Lux, memorial event coordinator.
Before the fateful flight, the crew had been ordered back to the United States for a publicity tour to help sell war bonds, and as a reward for being the first WWII bomber crew to complete 25 missions with its crew intact. Lux said his research revealed that Andrews had been called back to Washington, D.C., and “Hot Stuff” was the next flight out. So, Andrews took the place of the co-pilot, and his staff replaced several of the original crew.
The flight was due to stop in Iceland before crossing over the Atlantic, but instead crashed amidst inclement weather.
An air power pioneer
An advocate of a separate air force, Andrews is considered to be one of the founding fathers of the United States Air Force. He was selected to organize and command the General Headquarters Air Force, the first centralized command of what would later become the U.S. Army Air Forces.
Andrews was also the only general to command three theaters of operations during World War II, including the Caribbean Defense Command, U.S. Army in the Middle East Command and European Theater of Operations Command.
To honor him after his death, Camp Springs Army Air Field in Maryland was renamed Andrews Air Field in 1945. It later became Andrews Air Force Base and is now Joint Base Andrews.
Six years of bilateral event planning
Several of the crew’s family members attended the ceremony, along with special guests Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, 3rd Air Force Commander, and Col. E. John Teichert, 11th Wing and JBA commander. An Air Force B-52 Bomber and an Icelandic Coast Guard helicopter each provided a ceremonial flyover of the event.
“We are proud to be an enduring memorial to Lieutenant General Andrews,” Teichert said. “He was an amazing officer, leader, warrior and air power advocate.”
The memorial itself was six years in the making, requiring partnerships between Icelandic residents to find land for the memorial, raise the funds, and design it. Lux said the motivation behind the effort was twofold: first, to recognize the Hot Stuff crew, and two, to revive Andrews’ legacy.
“It represents the heroism [and] the dedication of a group of individuals that gave their all for our country and to defeat the enemy of WWII,” said Lux.
Editor’s note: For historical accuracy, portions of this article were selected from a press release published by Commemorative Air Force via Jim Lux.