Highlights

Our archivists all have their particular favourites in this amazing collection, and here, we have highlighted a few of them for you, to give you a flavour of the archive. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

MC 371/910, USF PH 3/3 389th Bomb Group photograph album
This photograph album is one of the most detailed in the archive and relates mainly to the 392nd Bomb Group at Wendling but also contains some photographs relating to Hethel. One of the photographs shows a ground crew carefully maintaining a B-24 aeroplane on the airbase. Ground crews performed a wide variety of roles including as mechanics, engineers, armourers, military policemen, cooks and clerks. For every man in the air there were another seven to ten on the ground engaged in support work.
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MC 376/655, USF 13/1 Commemorative short-snorter bank note showing the B-24 'Witchcraft'
Short-snorters are banknotes (real or novelty) signed by people travelling together on an aeroplane. The tradition began in the 1920s and during the Second World War short-snorters were signed by flight crews in the hope that they would bring good luck to the airmen. This commemorative short-snorter featuring an image of the B-24 Witchcraft was signed by her crew. The Witchcraft was a B-24 aeroplane in the 790th Bomb Squadron, 467th Bomb Group, Rackheath. It was famous for completing 130 combat missions, which was an Eighth Air Force record at the time.
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MC 371/444, USF 10/3 file_example_MP3_700KB
During the War, East Anglia (in the east of England) became home to tens of thousands of US service personnel, and the Eighth Air Force remains one of the largest air strike forces ever committed to battle. The archive documents the wartime experiences of Second Air Division personnel and their relationships with British people in their 'home from home' in Norfolk and beyond during the War. It is a personal and commemorative collection which contains photographs, diaries, letters, memoirs, sound recordings and other documents donated to the Second Air Division Memorial Library's archive which is held at the Norfolk Record Office, England. The images on this website are of original records and reflect the period in which they were created as well as the harsh realities of war.
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MC 371/926, USF 5/4 Mission diary
This original mission diary written by Richard Vincent of the 445th Bomb Group (Tibenham) describes his missions flown between 17 March and 5 May 1945. The targets Vincent lists illustrate the Second Air Division’s main task, which was the strategic bombing of enemy infrastructure in daylight attacks. The targets include marshalling yards at Münster, an oil installation at Brunswick, submarine pens at Wilhelmshaven and a jet airfield at Augsburg. The diary gives an insight into the length and intensity of his missions, some of which were over nine hours long and had the crew flying close to the limit of their B-24’s range over Czechoslovakia. Vincent also tells us what the missions were like to fly. He records ‘milk runs’, where they had a smooth flight with little enemy resistance, and a mission on which a piece of flak shot a hole in the nose of their aeroplane, just missing their turret-gunner. The number of American bomber aircraft destroyed on missions reduced when they were given a fighter escort. American bomber crews called P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft their ‘little friends’ and Vincent comments, ‘Our ‘’lil friends’ (8 groups of P-51s) escorted us, they sure make you feel safe…’. His diary also shows that it was not all about missions and dropping bombs. On seeing his first view of the Alps from a B-24, Vincent records that it ‘added a little beauty to this grim business’ and expressed his hope that the war would end soon.
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MC 376/336, USF PH 17/2 Photographs of a rodeo at Carrow Road Stadium
Even though there was a war on, the Americans still knew how to enjoy a traditional rodeo show! This spectacular rodeo was staged at Carrow Stadium for the people of Norwich and crowds packed the stands to watch the event in August 1944. The rodeo was a fund-raising event for the benefit of the Norfolk and Norwich War Charities fund and these photographs show that the crowds were treated to seeing American servicemen riding bucking steers and horses, pig wrestling, fire breathing and car pulling.
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MC 371/815, USF 16/1 Photographs of WACs
These fun photographs, snapped by at Ketteringham Hall, show a local battalion of the Women’s Auxiliary Corps (WACs) training and at leisure. In one photograph they are reeling out a fire hose, training in a trench (complete with pet puppy) and being inspected by their director, Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby. Hobby was a lawyer, newspaper research editor and wife of the former Texas Governor, William P. Hobby. She was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for her success as director of the WACs and was the first woman in the United States Army to receive this award. Members of the WACs have also played an important role in post-war remembrance of the Second Air Division in Norfolk. Evelyn Cohen (back left reeling out the fire hose) was one of the founding members of the Second Air Division Association, which helped to set up the second Air Division Memorial Library. During the Second World War, around 150,000 American women served in the WACs. About 10,000 served abroad, including in Norfolk, where they usually undertook clerical and communications work. At any one time between 1943 and 1945, there were about 200 American servicewomen in Norfolk.
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MC 376/599, USF OVR/11 Watercolours by T/Sgt Ludwig Lund
The watercolours in this unique album depict the people and places associated with the ‘friendly invasion’ of Americans in Norfolk. They show Second Air Division Headquarters, B-24 aeroplanes on missions and many areas of Norwich, including the Cathedral and the Bell Hotel, the latter being a favourite meeting place for American service personnel. The album of watercolours was presented to the Commander of the Second Air Division, General James Pratt Hodges, by his staff as a gift in December 1943. The artist, Ludwig Lund, was born on 20 September 1908 in Odense, Denmark. In 1920, when Ludwig was 12 years old, his Danish family emigrated to the United States. From an early age, Ludwig showed a talent for drawing and was largely a self-taught artist. During the Second World War, he served as a Technical Sergeant in the Intelligence Division, where he illustrated maps as part of his work.
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