IWM Duxford has launched a new crowd-sourcing website for the American Air Museum, offering a digital record of the memories and stories of the men and women of the US Army Air Forces (USAAF) who found themselves serving their country from somewhere in England, during the Second World War. It also records the memories of the British people who met and befriended them.
P-47M serial 44-21237 assigned to 2lLT Walter J. Sharbo of the 62nd Fighter Squadron, 56th Fighter Group. Photo: Imperial War Museum
The musuem is continuing to collect photographs, memories and information about the American airmen and women and needs your help to grow this unique digital resource. Perhaps you recognise the people or the place in one of the photographs on the website: www.americanairmuseum.com
Lieutenant Jack Havener and Wroneski of the 344th Bomb Group relax outside their Nissen Hut; image taken by Jack K Havener, 344th Bomb Group. Photo: Imperial War Museum
Maybe you, or a family member, have vivid memories of American service personnel in your town or village. You might be a keen researcher of Second World War history and have some facts and figures to contribute.
Lieutenant Stanley Stedt, a bombardier of the 306th Bomb Group astride a bomb. Photo: Imperial War Museum
This is an opportunity to capture the experiences of the Second World War generation who lived on and around American airfields in the UK. These inspirational veterans’ stories will be built into a dynamic resource for generations to come.
The American Air Museum website has been made possible through the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which awarded a grant of £980,000 to IWM Duxford, in December 2013, towards the redevelopment of the museum and the creation of the website.
Jenny Cousins, project leader, American Air Museum said: “Some of the photographs on our website show the Americans talking to local children during the Second World War. Perhaps someone using our website will recognise their grandma or – better still – perhaps she will recognise herself. We hope that people will add their own pictures and tell us their stories.”
Robyn Llewellyn, head of HLF East of England, said: “The American Air Museum at IWM Duxford has possibly the best collection of US military aircraft outside the USA. Now, this project will not only overhaul the displays and galleries, it will also bring many fascinating stories to life, hopefully through vivid photography and stories of local communities just waiting to be told. We encourage as many people to come forward and get involved as possible.”
The website is based around The Roger Freeman Collection, a compilation of approximately 15,000 prints and slides assembled by RogerFreeman(1928-2005), a hugely respected aviation historian and native of East Anglia.Many of these images have not, up to now, been publicly available. The American Air
Museum website launches with 5,000 of these images; the remaining images will be added in stages as the website develops.
The Roger Freeman Collection shows the variety of experiences of serving members of the United States Army Air Forces in Britain during the Second World War. Images depict the different roles undertaken by members of USAAF and also off-duty leisure time, the aircraft, combat missions, events and local communities. Using the Roger Freeman Collection of photographs as its core content and with the creation of a sophisticated searchable and editable database, the website links each photograph to the serving group or unit it represents. It also shows the geographical location in which the photograph was taken, the type of aircraft the group operated and may also give the personal story of a man or woman shown in the photograph.
The American Air Museum website also hosts 225,000 names from the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in Savannah, Georgia, USA, alongside a plethora of fascinating material from museums and individuals in the United States and the United Kingdom. You can read stories about cooks and cowboys, fighter aces and firemen – and every job in between. There are stories of bravery and ingenuity and also stories of sadness and tragedy.
You can become an armchair history detective and help us to fill in the gaps in the information that we currently have. For instance, we need to know more about the civilians that the American service personnel met in the UK. We also know very little about the United States Army Air Forces bases which provided support to the air bases – the bakeries, laundries and logistics of catering for up to half a million Americans. Maybe you know about one of these support bases or live near a former USAAF site. If so, we’d like you to add this information to our digital maps on the website.
Your information might provide the vital link in a remarkable story. The website content will inform the exhibition in the American Air Museum and will be present in the exhibition itself. You might even see your story in the museum!