The Library Restored: The 2001 Re-dedication and Today

By Don Allen

After the terrible fire of 1994 that devastated the Library’s holdings and led to a six year “temporary” relocation to Ber Street in Norwich, the Memorial Library was re-opened in the newly built Forum building on the 7th of November, 2001.

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The Right Rev. Graham Jones, Bishop of Norwich, dedicating the new Memorial Library.

608 2nd Air Division veterans and their families were also in attendance, holding their convention that year in Norwich.

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The new Roll of Honor being transported to the Library through the Forum.

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The Guard of Honor at the re-dedication

 

Outside the Memorial Library is a garden containing a number of American birch trees that were presented by the Friends of the 2nd Air Division.

 

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The American birch trees from the outside looking in to the Memorial Library as they stand today.

 

 

A prominent feature of the old Memorial, the Fountain and Mosaic, could not be re-erected on the Forum grounds. However, the Mosaic, which contains a mineral stone from every state in the United States, was rebuilt on the grounds of the Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum at Flixton.

 

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The Fountain and Mosaic as seen outside the original Memorial.

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The rebuilt Mosaic at Flixton. Both photos courtesy of Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum at Flixton. (http://www.aviationmuseum.net/Memorials.html)

 

Inside the Library is a wall-length mural composed of images from the “Friendly Invasion”; Liberator models showing the Assembly Ships for the different bomb groups; and a large detailed model of “The Witchcraft”, with a 6-foot long wingspan, is hung prominently from the ceiling. For photos of these and more information see the “In The Library” posts on our blog site.

The new Library also contains over 7,000 books, computers for public use, and audio-visual equipment for viewing the Library’s film collection, which has DVD’s of past Conventions, documentaries on the individual bomb groups, and interviews with veterans, all available for viewing in the Library.

In the center of the Library is the Shrine Area. This area, designed to reflect the human cost of war, contains a map of the bomb groups as spread throughout Norfolk and banners representing each of the bomb groups, all surrounding the Roll of Honor. Each day a page of the Roll of Honor is turned, ensuring that every hero that provided the ultimate sacrifice is remembered.

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Shrine Area with the Roll of Honor situated in the back.

 

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United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom Matt Barzun (left) viewing the Roll of Honor, with Trust Librarian Libby Morgan and Second Air Division Memorial Trust Chairman Richard Middleton, in 2014.

 

 

For nearly 17 years the new Library has been continuing the mission the members of the 2nd Air Division began 73 years ago: to be a “living memorial” to their fallen comrades. Through annual events organized by the Library on topics ranging from WWII to current culture in America; by visiting schools to provide activities and learning opportunities for the  younger generation; through the American Scholars program where American students at UEA work at the Library, providing a real-live American presence throughout the year; to the physical Library itself, providing a place to come in and learn about nearly every American subject, the Library provides a place for the special relationship between the US and the UK to continue to grow.

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The 27th Amendment: 202 years in the making

by Don Allen

The 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is rather straightforward in both its wording and meaning:

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened

Seems simple. Congress can’t give itself a pay raise that begins in the same term as the one they are currently in. Seems fair to me, and the founding fathers thought so as well as it was originally introduced in the same Congressional session with what is now termed the Bill of Rights, or the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution. However, it wasn’t ratified and was mostly forgotten about.

In 1982, after a series of Congressional pay raises, the public was unhappy. In stepped a man by the name of Gregory Watson, a 19-year old college student who believed that, because the amendment did not have a set date wherein it had to be ratified or it would be invalid, it could still be passed. After receiving a “C” grade (equivalent to a low 2:2) on his paper arguing as such, Watson began a campaign to get the Amendment ratified.

After 10 years of research, in which he found out that some states had ratified the Amendment before he began his campaign, and convincing 30 states who hadn’t ratified it to do so, Watson prevailed and the amendment was ratified as the 27th Amendment on May 18th, 1992.

202 years after its proposal.

The ratification itself was controversial. Legally speaking, according to Title 1, section 106b of the United States Code, after a proposed amendment has left Congress and gone to the states for a vote Congress has no further say in what happens to the amendment. Instead the Archivist of the United States certifies that the amendment has passed and is now officially a part of the Constitution. As written in the code:

Whenever official notice is received at the National Archives and Records Administration that any amendment proposed to the Constitution of the United States has been adopted, according to the provisions of the Constitution, the Archivist of the United States shall forthwith cause the amendment to be published, with his certificate, specifying the States by which the same may have been adopted, and that the same has become valid, to all intents and purposes, as a part of the Constitution of the United States.

The Congress in 1992 however wasn’t too happy that this had been enshrined in the Constitution without them being able to at least look it over. But when push came to shove everything was done legally and above board, and they eventually passed official measures recognizing the 27th Amendment as valid. These official measures were entirely meaningless, other than as a public relations stunt, but after two centuries the founding fathers had contributed what will likely be their last change to the Constitution that they had written.

But then again, as this shows, never say never.

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Donald Trump: The 45th President…or the 44th? Answer: Both

By Don Allen

I was asked a question a while ago about the Presidency of the United States and how it works. Specifically this (paraphrased anyway):

President Donald Trump is the 44th person to hold the office of President of the United States. And yet he is called the 45th President. Why?

 

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The reason for this is both simple and complicated, and when I explained it to the customer it took a moment for them to completely understand. So, I figured a quick blog post about it would be interesting.

The reason why Pres. Trump is known as the 45th President of the United States, when only 44 different men (including Trump) have held the position, is all due to Pres. Grover Cleveland, who was the 22nd AND 24th President.

 

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Pres. Grover Cleveland

 

Cleveland was elected the 22nd President in 1884, serving his first term from 1885-1889. While he ran for another term in 1888, he lost to Benjamin Harrison, who became the 23rd President and served from 1889-1893.

 

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Pres. Benjamin Harrison

So far, so simple.

But.

Cleveland ran again in 1892, and this time defeated Harrison, serving his second term from 1893-1897. He is the only person to be elected president to two non-consecutive terms, and herein lies the numbering problem. Because every other president who was elected to multiple terms before Cleveland did so consecutively, the numbering was straightforward. It was numbered by the individual, not the presidential term. So George Washington wasn’t the 1st and 2nd President, he was the 1st who served two terms. Andrew Johnson wasn’t the 16th President when he succeeded Abraham Lincoln months into Lincoln’s second term, he was the 17th even though he hadn’t won (and wouldn’t win) a presidential election.

Cleveland’s second term however presented a conundrum. If he was considered the 22nd President only, i.e. numbered solely on being the 22nd distinct individual to have held the office, the Presidential numbering timeline would look like this when you add in Cleveland’s second successor as President, William McKinley:

 

22nd President- Cleveland

23rd President- Harrison

22nd President- Cleveland

24th President- McKinley

 

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Pres. William McKinley

 

See the problem? In this telling, the 22nd President was both before and after the 23rd, and the 24th President, McKinley, followed the 22nd. Logically this doesn’t make any sense. But, at the same, you couldn’t completely change the numbering to count only the Presidential term, because then Washington WOULD have been the 1st and 2nd Presidents, Abraham Lincoln would have been the 19th President (and the 20th), not the 16th, and so on. This would throw off the entire century of numbering and historical reckoning. So, what was to be done?

Well, the answer became to regard Cleveland as both the 22nd and 24th President. It’s purely a logistical decision. Rather than re-work every Presidents number in the pecking order, literally changing a century of history, it was simply easier to number Cleveland twice.

And if for some reason you need to know how many individuals have been President, just subtract one from the current President’s number:

Donald Trump, 45th President, minus one = 44th person who has been President.

Easy peasy.

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The Library Fire of 1994

By Don Allen

Twenty-four years ago today, the 1st of August 1994, thirty-one years after its opening and forty- nine years after its conception, the 2nd Air Division USAAF Memorial Room in Norwich’s Central Library building caught fire, apparently caused by an electrical fault with the wiring in the Memorial Room. Within only a couple of minutes the Central Library was engulfed in flames. Within hours, despite the heroic effort by the fire department, the entire building was gone.

 

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(Photo of the Central Library on fire courtesy of Eastern Daily Press).

 

 

While the loss of the records for not only the Library but for the entire city of Norwich was great, the truly important thing to note about this disaster is that no one was hurt, as it occurred before the Library was open to the public and the staff members that were inside at the time were able to get out safely.

The damage to the Memorial’s holdings however was extensive. The complete stock of books, well over three thousand, was destroyed. The original Roll of Honor presented in 1963 was also lost, as was the Freedom Shrine and all the artefacts that were on display in the Memorial Room. Thankfully, the archives, books and collection of memorabilia that were stored in the fireproof basement had been saved, although did suffer from water damage. Below is a montage of three photos of the Room as it looked before the fire. The 1963 Roll of Honor can be seen clearly in the left photo.

 

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The Governors of the Memorial Trust wasted no time in getting the Memorial up and running again. They announced that the Memorial would be re-established, and set about rebuilding the book stock. In an article published in the 2nd Air Division Association Journal, Vol. 33 No. 3 only a month later (link to PDF of this issue: http://www.heritageleague.org/files/1994-09-small.pdf) David Hasting, Vice-Chairman of the Board of Governor’s for the Trust, wrote about the fire and its effects. While he expresses great sadness, the article is overall one of determination that the Memorial will be rebuilt. Some quotes:

 

By lunchtime the fire is almost out, and Hillary Hammond goes in while we just wait and pray. When Hillary appears his ashen face tells the tale, and we know the very worst, that the unique and beautiful 2nd Air Division USAAF Memorial has been completely destroyed. All of us standing outside the fire station quietly shed a tear, for how can so many years of hard work, love and devotion have gone. But already there is another feeling of grim determination that WE WILL REBUILD the Memorial. Tom Eaton broadcasts on TV and local radio and confirms that the work of the Memorial Trust will go on, books will still be bought with the bookplates; keeping the Memorial alive in the other branch and county libraries until THE NEW MEMORIAL is built.

On Wednesday, complete with hard hats, gloves and masks, we are now allowed into the building to start searching for what is left, and Phyllis and Lesley are so brave when surrounded by this scene of total destruction. Perhaps it is easier for those of us who have lived through the Blitz, for we have known the shock of blackened walls and the stench of burnt fabric and paper, but even so the sight of the Memorial Room stuns us all; it has just vanished.

 

Once the plans for the new library are known, the Memorial Trust will then launch an appeal here in the United Kingdom for donations to the trust capital fund to enable the Memorial to be rebuilt with its future safeguarded in perpetuity. We will also need to appeal for archives, photographs, group histories, formation lists, mission records, medals, paintings, oral tapes, videotapes, etc., to replace all that tremendous wealth of information that was lost…. Already the offers of funds and archives are pouring in, and we know that the NEW 2ND AIR DIVISION USAAF MEMORIAL when it is opened will be even better than the first.

 Below are a couple pictures from after the fire. The first is Phyllis Dubois, the Trust Librarian, looking at what remained of the Memorial Room. The second are the remains of a charred book.

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Phyllis Dubois, Trust Librarian, examining the destroyed Memorial Room

Charred remains of a Memorial Library book (from EDP website)

Charred remnants of a 2nd Air Division Book. Photo courtesy of Eastern Daily Press

 

 

Serendipitously for the rebuilding effort, the library of a U.S.A.F station at Upper Heyford was closing, allowing for a substantial re-stock. With help from many veterans, plus the 2nd Air Division Association and the Heritage League, a temporary library was opened on Ber Street in Norwich in late February 1995, just six months after the fire. This “temporary” location would be the home of the Memorial Library for the next six years until the new Forum building was completed, which would house the new central library for the city, known as the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library. Within this new central library the 2nd Air Division USAAF Memorial would be reborn.

The memory of the fire can still be felt in a tactile way in the Library. Some of the waterlogged books that were saved are still on our shelves, professionally restored and re-covered. The two books shown below are examples of these: the top book is “An Operational Record of the 95th Bomb Group (Vol II Supplement)” by Paul M. Andrews, while the bottom is a small unit history of the 44th Bomb Group at Shipdham titled “The United States Air Force In Shipdham”. Both are immediately distinguishable by the old bookplates that the Library used before the fire, note the tell-tale red “L” that can also be seen in the photo above of the charred book. They both also have noticeable water damage.

 

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We also have some physical objects, such as this helmet, which belonged to Robert Boyle of the 489th BG, and a portable oxygen bottle. Stored in “Large Objects Box 1”, you can see under the general notes section that they were “Salvaged from 1994 fire”.

 

 

The fire was a terrible event, but there were some silver linings. The construction of the modern Forum building allows for much safer storage of our rebuilt archives and holdings. The new space for the Memorial is 185 square meters, or nearly double the space in the old building. This allows us to expand on our holdings and have a greater impact on the community. And finally, in a way, it re-energized the ideas of General Kepner in the appeal leaflet of 1945, allowing us to an even greater degree to uphold our primary missions of remembering the brave soldiers of the Second Air Division, being a link between the USA and the UK, and to be a place of lifelong learning for the people of Norwich.

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