In The Library: The “Witchcraft”

by Don Allen

The first thing visitors typically notice when they walk into the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library is the large model of the B-24 Liberator “Witchcraft” hanging from the ceiling. It’s an imposing site, giving the viewer a small glimpse of what it must have been like to see a B-24 flying overhead.

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View from the doorway into the Memorial Library

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View of the left side

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View of the right side

The model was graciously presented to the Memorial Library at its opening in 2001 by Mike Caputo, formerly a navigator with the 467th Bomb Group out of Rackheath, from which the “Witchcraft” flew during World War II with the 790th Bomb Squadron. Built to fly, the model is a remarkable piece of craftsmanship, with only minor differences from the real one which were necessary in order for it to fly.

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Photo of “Witchcraft” with groundcrew, C. 1944-45, from our Digital Archives. Notice the bombs signifying approx. 65 missions flown at that time

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Closeup of bombs painted on the side of the model representing missions flown, as well as the noseart of the “Witchcraft”

Each bomb painted on the side represents one bombing run. The “Witchcraft” flew 130 combat missions between April 10, 1944 and April 25, 1945, an Eighth Air Force record. Even more remarkably, the “Witchcraft” never suffered a single casualty during its run.

While the real “Witchcraft” was scrapped following the war, the memory and spirit of her and her crew live on with this model. So stop by and see her at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library and learn more about this amazing aircraft.

For more pictures and correspondance relating to the “Witchcraft” visit our Digital Archives here.

 

 

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Upcoming Events!

We have an exciting summer of events coming up at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library; from the UEA Lecture series focusing on the political climate of American current events to events exploring the historical role of Americans in East Anglia there is a talk for everyone.

A few of the historical talks coming up include:

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This session will allow you to get up close with American artefacts from WWII – perspex windscreen jewellry for an airman’s sweetheart to silk maps used in the event of emergency landing (or worse!). Come along and have a look at the different items and learn a bit of Norwich history.

 

Americans in East Anglia (12-5-17).JPG Recently we have launched our digital archive – a massive project that allows anyone to access the treasure trove of artefacts and memorabilia of the 2nd Air Division Memorial from any computer. This talk will not only show you how to navigate and search for items within the digital archive but also whet your appetite for the kinds of things that can be found – poetry, letters, diaries, photos, and so much more.

 

HUN Friendly Invasion Film Show (24-5-17).jpgA bit different from the digital archive, this talk at Hunstanton Library will showcase some of the film footage taken by and of the American airmen during their time in East Anglia. The archival footage is a fascinating way to put yourself in their time and will surely get you thinking about how life has changed in the years that followed!

 

We hope to see you at any (or all!) of the above talks this May. Please refer to the appropriate digital flyer for booking, location, and time details. 

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“Just Mercy-A Story of Justice and Redemption”-Bryan Stevenson

Book Review by Mickie Dann, member of the ‘Reading across the Pond’ group at the Second Air Division Memorial Library.

 

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This book, written by a gifted lawyer, who specialises in the defence of the underdogs of USA society, was the favourite read of the year for many in our book group.

Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, skilfully interweaves the true story of innocent Walter McMillian, whom he met in Death Row in Alabama, with his own professional development and experience of prejudice. Bryan Stevenson has dedicated his life to drawing attention to the inequalities in justice for people of colour and the poor.

The book’s appeal rests on the author’s ability to engage the reader through a conversational style and descriptions of the prisoners, circumstances leading to their incarceration and the effects on their families. Stevenson manages to provide sufficient explanation within the text to allow the layperson to understand the basics of legal procedures while maintaining the pace of the narrative. At the end there is a lengthy additional chapter of detailed research notes and sources which substantiate this eminent lawyer’s claims. A book which will shock, enrage and provoke discussion for those interested in a fair society.

 

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“May their sons and grandsons never have to go to war.”

By Don Allen

Those words are part of the opening written by Tech Sergeant Donald Chase of the 44th Bomb Group, the “Flying Eight-Balls”, in his record of the 28 combat missions he was on, available on our Digital Archives here. Our online Archives are filled to the brim with such diaries and memoirs, which too often are forgotten about in the recitation of battles and outsized personalities of World War II.

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The memoir is relatively simple, as he records the date of each of his 28 missions accompanied by a synopsis of each mission that was written by Will Lundy, followed by his personal reflections. Some are short, no more than a paragraph or two. Others are long, taking up a page or more.

However, while in a simple form, the T/Sgt’s memories and descriptions help bring a personal feeling to what can otherwise typically be a rather “sanitized” description of a bombing mission given in most books and records of the war.

For example, his memories of Mission 9, while short, are particularly vivid, as the T/Sgt describes “Hunkering low as possible, but still able to observe E/A [Enemy Aircraft] anywhere from 9 through 3 o’clock, I watched the red wink-wink-wink of German 20 mm cannon fire and heard our responding .50’s”.

After his 15th mission, the T/Sgt described the time-off in between missions, when a “Liberty-run” to Norwich in “canvas-topped trucks full of GI’s” was allowed:

“Generally, the Americans were well-recieved by the English. However, some GI’s thought the English were unfriendly and snobbish. Usually they were the same ones who complained about England’s wartime shortages and stridently boasted of America’s ‘superior’ advantages and products. Had the situation been reversed, I wondered, would Americans have been as tolerant and sharing as the British?”

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His 28th and final combat mission description ends with:

“So, after 28 missions of varying intensity and the loss of many friends, I was through with combat.

And I wished that nobody, anywhere, ever had to go to war again”.

 

Powerful words from a man with first-hand experience. Thank you Tech. Sergeant Chase, both for your service and your memories.

 

 

 

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