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Original U.S. Vintage 1953 Coca-Cola Advertisement Tin Sign marked RAF LAKENHEATH - 36 Inch Diameter

Item Description

Original Item: One-of-a-kind. This is a genuine vintage tin Coca Cola tin sign that measures 36 inches in diameter. It is marked on the lower front AM 10-53 which indicates production in October 1953. The reverse is stencil painted RAF LACKENHEATH which was a U.S. Army Air Force base during WWII and then used by both the British and the USAFE through the cold war. Evidently this was sign hung in the mess at the air field, though other than acquiring it in the UK we do not know exactly how or where it was used.

Vintage Coke signs of this type are some of the most desirable on the market today. This example is offered in very good condition, with just minor wear and still retains its vibrant colors and details.

RAF Lackenheath:
In 1940, the Air Ministry selected Lakenheath as an alternative for RAF Mildenhall and used it as a decoy airfield. False lights, runways and aircraft diverted Luftwaffe attacks from Mildenhall.

In 1941, hard runways were put down with the main runway, 04/22, being 2,000 yards, and the subsidiaries, 12/30 at 1,300 yards and 16/34 at 1,400 yards. Another 100 yards was added to runway 16/34. Hardstands for 36 aircraft were built, along with two T-2s and a B-1 hangar. One T-2 was on the technical site, the other hangars to the east across the A1065 Mildenhall-Brandon road were reached by taxiways.

Lakenheath Airfield was used by RAF flying units on detachment late in 1941. The station soon functioned as a Mildenhall satellite with Short Stirling bombers of No. 149 Squadron RAF dispersed from the parent airfield as conditions allowed. The squadron exchanged its Vickers Wellingtons for Stirlings late in during November 1941. After becoming fully operational with its new aircraft, the squadron moved into Lakenheath on 6 April 1942 and remained until mid 1944 when the squadron moved to RAF Methwold.

Taking part in more than 350 operations, more than half mine-laying, 149 Squadron had one of the lowest percentage loss rates of all Stirling squadrons.[citation needed] One Stirling pilot, Flight Sergeant Rawdon Middleton, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for valour on the night of 28–29 November 1942 when despite serious face wounds from shell-fire during a raid on the Fiat works at Turin and loss of blood, he brought the damaged aircraft back towards southern England, with fuel nearly exhausted his crew were ordered to bail out. Middleton was killed when the Stirling, BF372 OJ-H, crashed into the English Channel.

In early 1943, three T-2 hangars were erected on the north side of the airfield for glider storage, 40 Horsa Gliders being dispersed at Lakenheath during that year.

On 21 June 1943, No. 199 Squadron RAF was established as a second Stirling squadron. Commencing operations on 31 July, it laid mines during the winter of 1943–44. At the end of April 1944, after 68 operations, the squadron transferred to No. 100 Group RAF for bomber support, moving to RAF North Creake on 1 May 1944.

No. 149 Squadron ended its association with RAF Lakenheath the same month, taking its Stirlings to RAF Methwold.[2] Between them, the two squadrons lost 116 Stirling bombers in combat while flying from Lakenheath.

The reason for the departure of the two bomber squadrons was Lakenheath's selection for upgrading to a Very Heavy Bomber airfield. Lakenheath was one of three RAF airfields being prepared to receive United States Army Air Forces Boeing B-29 Superfortresses, which were tentatively planned to replace some of Eighth Air Force's Third Air Division Consolidated B-24 Liberator groups in the spring of 1945.

The work entailed removal of the existing runways and laying new ones comprising 12 inches of high-grade concrete. The main at 07/25 was 3,000 yards long; the subsidiaries, 01/19 and 14/32, both 2,000 yards; all three being 100 yards wide. Part of the A1065 road between Brandon and Mildenhall was closed, and a new section built further to the east on the Warren. During the peak period of construction, over 1,000 men were working on the site; yet instead of the 12 months planned, it took 18 months for the ground work alone and 2 1⁄2 years before Lakenheath's transformation was complete. The cost was nearly £2 million.

By the time construction ended the war with Germany was over and RAF Lakenheath was put on a care and maintenance status.

United States Air Force use
Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union in Europe began as early as 1946. In November, President Harry S. Truman ordered Strategic Air Command B-29 bombers to RAF Burtonwood, and from there to various bases in West Germany as a "training deployment". In May 1947, additional B-29s were sent to the UK and Germany to keep up the presence of a training program. These deployments were only a pretense, as the true aim of these B-29s was to have a strategic air force permanently stationed in Europe.

In April 1947, RAF Bomber Command returned to Lakenheath and had the runways repaired, resurfaced, and readied for operations by May 1948.

Strategic Air Command
307th Bombardment Group Boeing B-29A-75-BN Superfortress 44-62328 SAC 8th Air Force, at RAF Lakenheath, England during the Berlin Airlift, 1948
Boeing B-50D
Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter, 1951
USAF Boeing B-47E-50-LM (AF Serial No. 52-3363) in flight.

In response to the threat by the Soviet Union, by the 1948 Berlin blockade, President Truman decided to realign USAFE into a permanent combat-capable force. In July, B-29 Superfortresses of the SAC 2nd Bombardment Group were deployed to Lakenheath for a 90-day temporary deployment.

On 27 November 1948, operational control of RAF Lakenheath was transferred from the Royal Air Force to USAFE. The first USAFE host unit at RAF Lakenheath was the 7504th Base Completion Squadron, being activated that date. The squadron was elevated to an Air Base Group (ABG) on 28 January 1950, and to a Wing (ABW) on 26 September 1950.

Control of RAF Lakenheath was allocated to Third Air Force at South Ruislip Air Station, which had command of SAC B-29 operations in England. Third Air Force was subsequently placed directly under USAF orders, with Strategic Air Command establishing the 7th Air Division Headquarters at RAF Mildenhall. The collocation of the two headquarters within the United Kingdom allowed HQ USAFE to discharge its responsibilities in England, while at the same time allowing Strategic Air Command to continue in its deterrent role while retaining operational control over flying activities at Lakenheath.

By 1950, Lakenheath was one of three main operating bases for the U.S. Strategic Air Command in the UK, the others were RAF Marham and RAF Sculthorpe. A succession of bombardment squadrons and wings, 33 in all, rotated through Lakenheath, the B-29s giving way to the improved B-50 Superfortresses and then, in June 1954, B-47 Stratojets.

On 1 May 1951, Lakenheath was transferred from USAFE to SAC, and placed under the 3909th Air Base Group. By 1952, high security perimeter fencing was erected. The 3909th moved to RAF Greenham Common in 1954, and was replaced by the 3910th Air Base Group.

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