Beyond the War: The 2nd Air Division Memorial Library

By Don Allen

Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you’ve searched for a topic about World War II and discovered that there was a massive United States Army Air Force (precursor to the modern US Air Force) presence here in Norfolk during the war. Or perhaps you already knew about it, and wanted to learn more about the bomb groups, the planes used, or even individual people who served. The 2nd Air Division USAAF Memorial Library is the place to learn all of that information and far, far more. We have hundreds of books, videos, and artifacts from and about the Eighth Air Force’s 2nd Air Division here in our Library, as a living memorial to the brave men and women of the United States who served here. Those of us who have worked here, past and present (the Library opened in 1963), feel privileged to in some small way honor them.

What you may not realize however, and what can sometimes get lost because of our WWII coverage, is that we are not limited to WWII. We are dedicated to also preserving, indeed strengthening, the bond between America and the United Kingdom. To this end, there is so much in the Library to look at and learn from.

The Library covers nearly all of American history. From Native American history to the American Revolution to the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President, if you’re looking for it, chances are you can find it here. Civil War? Check. Vietnam? Check. War on Terror? Check. How did the States get their names and shapes? Who killed Kennedy? (Ok. Maybe we can’t answer that one, but we have books by authors who think they can!)  Our sections on American History have all of this and more.


Fascinated by American culture? Our collection of American cookbooks will help you create those American recipes you’ve always wanted to try. Our sports section ranges from football (American, not soccer), baseball, basketball and more. Poetry from Robert Frost, plays from Tennessee Williams and the music of Muddy Waters are just some examples of our selection. We carry books on arts & crafts, film & television, art, photography and architecture. Politics. Religion. True Crime. Biographies. American fiction. We also have American magazines including Time and Discover.



Or maybe you’re planning that trip to New York you always wanted to. Or the bayou of Louisiana. Or Cape Cod (my home). Want to tear down the famous Route 66, visit Yellowstone, or hike the California wine country? Our travel guides cover all 50 states and much more.



Beyond our books we have much to offer as well. Follow us on Twitter (@2ADMemLibrary) for Ebook Thursdays and pictures from our Digital Archives on Friday (or search the Archives yourself at Find us on Facebook ( for news and information. Come to one of the regular events and talks we put on, such as the event we held yesterday on the American Experience of the First World War by Dr. Sam Edwards. Keep reading this blog for weekly posts, and visit our 2nd Air Division Stories site, where Nathaniel Sikand-Youngs goes in depth to flesh out the stories behind the pictures of our Archives ( 



So whether it’s World War II, Bruce Springsteen, the Rocky Mountains or the World Series (congrats to the Astros by the by), we got you covered here at the 2nd Air Division USAAF Memorial Library.




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Thanksgiving Baking

By Danielle Prostrollo


In preparation for the Thanksgiving talk happening in the library on 20 November, I have been sifting through recipes and childhood memories of pies, cakes, and all manner of autumnal desserts. For the event, American Scholar Don Allen is going to give a short talk about the cultural significance of Thanksgiving, and a quick history lesson about the relevance of the holiday in America. My role is to whip up some timely and traditional desserts.

The afternoon will include pumpkin and sweet potato pies, a gingerbread quick bread, and candied pecans. Pumpkin pie, unarguably the star of the Thanksgiving dessert table. A cup of coffee and a slice of pie, with a dollop of whipped cream on top, is a standard method of winding down after the big feast. Sweet potato pie is very similar, both in preparation and in some ways in flavor, but definitely a more retro option. For both of these bakes you can find endless advice online about the best pie crust, whether or not to use fresh or canned for the filling, and so much more. The afternoon’s pies will be baked with consideration of many sources and a little bit of home knowledge!

A gingerbread quick bread sounds strange, but this quick bread is more like a cake. There is no yeast, so it rises up with a cake-like consistency and is popular in America for making zucchini bread, pumpkin bread, and banana bread. This gingerbread variety will hopefully help set people into an autumnal mood.

And lastly, the candied pecans come into the picture as a play on the pecan pie. For anyone who may prefer something a bit lighter than cakes and pies there will be candied pecans available with your coffee and tea. Pecan pie is a popular dish across America and certainly so in the South where pecan trees are plentiful.

If you would like to explore some of these American desserts (and many, many others) here are a few books you can find at the Memorial Library:

Complete Thanksgiving Cookbook

The New Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving 101


Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well

Thanksgiving: Recipes for a Holiday Meal

Williams Sonoma Thanksgiving Entertaining

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Filed under American Culture, american food

Judging A Book By It’s Cover

By Don Allen

As the title of this post suggests, the book “All The Real Indians Died Off” And 20 Other Myths About Native Americans, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker, is a book that I have yet to read. It came into the library only a few days ago, but when I first saw it it immediately struck me because the title is a phrase I have heard in my own life several times. The idea that the Native Americans of today are somehow not “real” Native Americans is absurd on its face, but one that is still common.




Reading the books back cover, Dunbar-Ortiz and Gilio-Whitaker trace “how these ideas evolved, and drawing from history, the authors disrupt long-held and enduring myths” such as: “Columbus Discovered America”; “Indians Were Savage and Warlike”; “Sports Mascots Honor Native Americans”; and “Most Indians Are on Government Welfare” among others. While by the time of my public education throughout the ’90s these issues were no longer being taught like this (at least in my area of New England), changing to a far more accurate depiction of what actually occurred, without question the generations before me were taught these subjects as they are presented above.

I look forward to reading this book at some point when my studies allow. It looks absolutely fascinating. But for now, if you are interested in learning the history behind these myths, come in and check it out. Or do so online here. And if you happen to stop by after reading it, let me know what you think.

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From gold mine to laboratory

By Danielle Prostrollo

To commemorate the Norwich Science Festival next week, I wanted to very quickly highlight one of America’s lesser-known scientific institutions in my own home state of South Dakota, the Sanford Lab Homestake.

old homestake mine

The Homestake Mine By Detroit Publishing Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The South Dakota gold rush may be less famous than the one in California but its effects continue today. The Homestake Mine was, for many years, the largest continuously running gold mine in America. In total, the mine supplied over 50 million ounces of gold and silver. After its closure in 2001, negotiations to allow a permanent research space began and resulted in the Sanford Lab. The lab is home to a number of experiments from several disciplines but some of the most fascinating (in my opinion) focus on neutrino and dark matter research. These experiments are only possible because of the mine’s incredible depth and size.

The Homestake deposit was discovered in 1876 and bought up for $70,000 (roughly equal to $1.5M in today’s money) the following year by a small group of entrepreneurs (that included George Hearst – newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst’s father). They clearly knew the investment would pay off, but did they know the mine would become an important site for scientific advancement?

The following diagram illustrates the initial plans for the Homestake Mine and shows the incredible usefulness of the mine toward scientific discovery in many disciplines.


By Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation ( news) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

To learn more about some of the science being studied at the Sanford Lab, South Dakota, or gold mining in America be sure to check out the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library, some suggestions to start out with:

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson

The Dakotas: A Guide to Unique Places, by Lisa Meyers McClintick

Gold Dust & Gun Smoke: tales of gold rush outlaws, gunfighters, lawmen and vigilantes, by John Boessenecker


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Filed under American Culture, American History