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On This Day 1940: the incredible story of an 'American who died that England might live'
17 August 2015
Born in 1911 New York, William Meade Lindsley Fiske III, known to most as Billy, wouldn't live to see his 30th birthday, but managed to leave a lasting legacy.
Four years later at Lake Placid, Fiske was selected to carry the US flag during the opening ceremony and his team - now four men - went on to win gold again.
As well as his Olympic success, Fiske was a Cresta Run champion and helped the Colorado town of Aspen become one of the world's leading winter sport destinations.
It is likely Fiske could have gone on to win a third consecutive gold, but made the decision to boycott the Nazi-organised Games of 1936 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
His diary at the time read: "I believe I can lay claim to being the first US citizen to join the RAF in England after the outbreak of hostilities.”
And it was as an RAF pilot that Fiske became involved in what remains the most famous air campaign of them all - the Battle of Britain.
Despite his talent, just ten days after joining his squadron, Fiske would be dead. Having taken a bullet to the fuel tank, he managed to land his plane, but would succumb to his injuries in hospital two days later, aged 29. He was buried in the churchyard of St Mary and St Blaise, in the southern English town of Boxgrove.
The following year on American Independence Day, a plaque was unveiled in the crypt of St Paul’s by Sir Archibald Sinclair, the Secretary of State for Air.
The plaque reads, simply: "An American citizen who died that England might live”.
At the ceremony, the words were spoken: "Here was a young man for whom life held much. Under no compulsion he came to fight for
Britain. He came and he fought and he died.”
Under Fiske's memorial plaque at St Paul's is a small box containing his RAF flying wings.