Category Archives: Memorial Library

Posts to do with the administration or staffing of the Memorial

The Friendly Invasion – Visit East Anglia

Seventy-five years ago the first of over 300,000 US servicemen arrived in the east of England to fight what was to become America’s longest battle of World War Two.

For the locals, their welcome presence signalled the biggest cultural and landscape impact of any event since the Norman Conquest almost 900 years earlier.

A rural backwater would soon be changed by the United States Army Air Force personnel, who brought to rationed England previously unknown items such as Coca Cola, chewing gum, peanut butter, Swing music and nylons. It was as if, just like in The Wizard of Oz, a monochrome landscape had suddenly gone technicolour.

The Friendly Invasion, as it became known, has left an indelible mark on East Anglia, and the sacrifices and bravery of those men have not been forgotten. The Eighth Air Force, The Mighty Eighth, suffered 26,000 fatalities, 3,000 more than the Marines in the Pacific, with a loss of 4,145 heavy bombers.

They are remembered at the American Air Museum at Imperial War Museum Duxford, at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, the Second Air Division Memorial Library at Norwich and at many airfield museums across the region, all staffed by dedicated volunteers determined to honour those from across the Atlantic who fought to preserve democracy, liberty and free speech.

Brigadier General Ira C. Eaker was the first to arrive on February 20, 1942, in civilian clothes, via Portugal. What was to follow became the greatest air armada in history. Their first mission was on July 4, despite their own planes not having arrived. But so determined were they to go on that symbolic date that they borrowed RAF bombers!

Later in the war, at peak strength, The Mighty Eighth could dispatch over 2000 four-engine bombers and more than 1000 fighters on a single mission.

‘This is a story that is unique to East Anglia,’ says Pete Waters, executive director of Visit East Anglia, the region’s tourism organisation which has created a new Friendly Invasion project working with US and UK museums and memorial groups. ‘But it is not as well-known as the road from D-Day to Berlin, or the campaign against the Japanese.’

Visit East Anglia is hoping that the announcement that a new HBO series based on Donald L Miller’s Masters of the Air book is being made by the production companies of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg will encourage more Americans to discover the rich heritage their forebears created.

‘Masters of the Air is entirely about the Mighty Eighth in East Anglia. We want Americans to come and see where Grandpa Joe came to serve and where Grandma Mabel maybe came from,’ adds Waters. ‘This is a story as much about social history as military.’

East Anglia’s links with America stretch back to the Founding Fathers – the highest percentage of passengers on The Mayflower came from the region. Abe Lincoln’s family came from the East of England, Thomas Paine, who wrote the pamphlets that arguably saved the Revolutionary War for George Washington, was born in the East of England, as was John Rolfe, who created The Special Relationship by marrying Pocahontas in the first inter-racial church wedding in north America and whose tobacco crop helped save Jamestown from bankruptcy. Where it not for Rolfe, Americans might now be speaking Spanish, French or even Dutch!

‘In inviting Americans to the region to experience The Friendly Invasion, we also want them to enjoy our contemporary visitor offering,’ says Waters. ‘We have wonderful links golf courses, two whisky distilleries, medieval castles, ‘Downton Abbeys’ in abundance, two cities in medieval Norwich and university Cambridge that are great for shopping, culture and arts, this is the rural home of the Royal Family, and, of course, we have superb spa hotels, fabulous fine dining, afternoon teas and quaint country pubs.’

After Band of Brothers aired on HBO, tourism in Normandy saw a 40% uplift in visitors from the US. Visit East Anglia is hoping that can be replicated with Masters of the Air.

‘In 1942 Americans came to the east of England,’ adds Waters. ‘Now we’d like to invite Americans back. They can be assured of a welcome as warm and friendly as their compatriots received seventy-five years ago.’

For more details visit the website, visiteastofengland.com

First published in The American magazine (www.theamerican.co.uk) June 2017

 

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Filed under American History, Local Interest, Memorial Library, Uncategorized, World War 2

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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Filed under Memorial Library, World War 2

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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Filed under American History, Archive Items, Current Events, Local Interest, Memorial Library, Public Events, World War 2

My first overdue library book was A Light in the Attic

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By: Danielle Prostrollo

Of course it is no badge of pride to have an overdue library book, but it is nonetheless true.  When I was about 7 years old I borrowed the popular Shel Silverstein book from the public library and then managed to accidentally keep it for, what I think was, 3 or 4 years.  That’s a lot of money in overdue fines.  But while my criminal record is forever tarnished, my relationship with poetry was shaped by that compilation.

I still go back to Silverstein on occasion, his writing is proof that poetry and literature does not need to be erudite to be masterful.  Most of his poems are one or two stanzas – short enough to keep the interest of young readers – and depict a world where not everything is sunshine and rainbows, but that it’s usually ok anyway.

In his later book Falling Up, Silverstein posits that if sunglasses keep out the sun then surely rainglasses can keep out the rain.  This kind of close-to-home whimsy allows kids (and grown-ups) to question their own world and consider why things are ‘the way they are’.

Other Silverstein works hit on aspects of life that most will find relevant well into adulthood as is the case with Tell Me which manages to distill common human phenomenon… “tell me I’m great/look thin/did a good job/etc… but be honest” into 8 lines.

In a time when it feels increasingly nice to turn off the news for a spell, A Light in the Attic (and any Shel Silverstein book) feels just as entertaining, relatable, and poignant as it did when I was seven.

You can find A Light In The Attic at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library here:
https://norfolk.spydus.co.uk/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/ENQ/OPAC/BIBENQ?BRN=404940

Photo: http://www.shelsilverstein.com/ from the cover of Silverstein’s Where The Sidewalk Ends

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Filed under American Culture, Books, Memorial Library