They had already been given the freedom of the town, and now the 67th Special Operations Squadron of the US Air Force is officially twinned with Hunstanton.
The resort owes an enduring debt thanks to the events of January 1953, when airmen led by Reis Leming, and Freeman Kilpatrick heroically saved dozens of lives from the terrible flood that hit the East Coast.
On Friday night 200 people turned up for a twinning ceremony at the town hall at which a symbolic charter was signed by Hunstanton mayor Andrew Murray and Lt Col Brad Downs, commander of the 67th Speical Operations Squadron, which is based at Mildenhall.
Mr Murray admitted that the twinning had been subject to “air turbulence” on the way to the ceremony.
But he said: “This is a historic event .”
Lt Col Downs replied: “Mayor Murray, I know that none of this would be happening witout your leadership and endeavour ... you are without a doubt among the 67th Special Opera;tons Squadron the most opular Andy Murray in the UK!”
Apart from signing the charter, the two men also cut a symobolic cake and unveiled a small version of the new sign that will be displayed on the town limits sign, proclaiming that it is twinned with the 67th.
Lt Col Downs said: “I’ll be completely honest. I didn’t fully understand this bond when I first arrived at the 67th back in November of 2013.
“Shortly thereafter, I met a few of the gentlemen in this room tonight as they were visiting RAF Mildenhall and it started to become clear. After several of Mark
Service’s history lessons, and finally meeting Mr. Neil Quincey…I understood why.
“Every day when I made the stroll to the second floor as the operations officer for my predecessor ….I walked by the cases with clippings and historical data describing the heroic acts of Reis Leming.
“I know many of you are aware of those actions back in January of 1953 but I can tell you, hearing the stories of these service members continues to inspire me, and all of those who walk the halls of the 67th.
Airmen such as Reis Leming constantly remind us that no matter how insurmountable the odds and regardless of rank or position within your organisation each of us is capable of doing extraordinary things when called to action.”
John Maiden, from the Hunstanton Civic Society, who has been one of the leading movers behind the twinning, said that this was a great night for the town.
He said: “Throughout the 1950’s approximately one quarter of the town’s population consisted of the families of United States service men based at RAF Sculthorpe, so it is very pleasing to know that a similar percentage is reflected here tonight.
“These sentiments are shared by many others in Hunstanton today, and none more so than by Neil Quincey, who, as most of you will know, was brought to safety from the 1953 Floods with his entire family, by Reis Leming.
“Then, within the last few days Tony Cassie, very kindly presented our Heritage Centre with the RAF Sculthorpe Pictorial for 1953.
“Tony was only seven years old in 1953 but clearly remembers the night of the floods and how those involved in the rescue efforts would call in at his parents café in Le Strange Terrace for cups of coffee and to get warm before going out again to face the storm.
“For 53 years Tony ran Cassie’s Restaurant overlooking The Green and every year five or six American families would call in to see if there was any connection between his restaurant and the Café of the same name run by his parents in the 1950’s. For this reason Tony is delighted that the Civic Society’s Heritage Centre is keeping those memories alive and making the special relationship even stronger now than it was 60 years ago.”