‘Let Us Go Forward Together’: The United States Air Force in Britain
Last month the American Air Museum (AAM) Research Group sat around a meeting table at IWM Duxford and dreamt of Savannah, Georgia. Well, more specifically the United States Army and Air Force veteran associations based there and the possible help they could offer to the redevelopment project. The AAM is a monument to the 30,000 American airmen who died flying from Britain during the Second World War. The hope for the redevelopment project is to contextualise the aircraft on display with the stories of the American airmen who flew them and the ground crews who maintained them.
Time and again, the names of faraway American places were mentioned: California, with the highest number of AAM Members, Texas with its high number of veterans who could form part of the oral history side of the project, Washington D.C. , a city chock-a-block full of excellent archival material…the list goes on. I had to snap back to reality, though, and present the findings of initial research into collections much closer to home – those of Imperial War Museums (IWM).
This work has revealed that IWM Collections have much to offer. Posters like the one shown here depict the Anglo-American alliance at its closest in 1943. The IWM Sound section holds interviews recorded with American airmen in the decades since the end of the Second World War. The diaries of these veterans held in the Documents Section describe what life was like for Americans stationed in Britain and how these servicemen and British civilians adapted to one other and came to understand each other’s way of life. Questionnaires filled in by British women who married American servicemen tell the stories of their emigration to the USA following the Second World War. There are photographs of American airmen on the bases, in the hangers and in the mess, and on leave, in Britain’s cities and villages. The Film Section holds footage shot by United States Army Air Force (USAAF) pilots on missions over north Western Europe before and after D-Day and the Exhibits Section has examples of the photographic equipment used to shoot this remarkable footage.
The research for this project has only just begun. Continue to follow the Research Blog and the American Air Museum Project website for further updates.