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Newly launched online archive sheds light on US heroes based in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 11:40 19 May 2016 | UPDATED: 13:28 19 May 2016

Second Air Division digital archive, Pictured: Kenton Morris’ crew photograph, 453rd Bomb Group based at Old Buckenham, March 1944. Pictured: Norfolk Record Office, MC 371/882/39/2.

Second Air Division digital archive, Pictured: Kenton Morris’ crew photograph, 453rd Bomb Group based at Old Buckenham, March 1944. Pictured: Norfolk Record Office, MC 371/882/39/2.

Norfolk Record Office

It is a fascinating chapter in our region’s wartime history that saw thousands of American personnel based across the county.

Homer ‘Bus’ Badgett

One of the numerous forgotten stories brought to life in the archive is that of American B-24 co-pilot Homer Badgett.

In a letter he described being involved in 14

missions with the 453rd bomb group flying out of Old Buckenham, and three missions with the 389th bomb group from Hethel. He said: “July 11, 1944 our plane was disabled by flak and we were forced to bail out over occupied France.

“I was assisted by the French Resistance and harboured by the French until the First English tank column came through in early September 1944.”

And now a new online digital archive which is being launched in Norwich today aims to shed new light on their lives more than 70 years later.

Thousands of rare documents have been made available to the public telling the story of US pilots stationed in Norfolk during the Second World War.

It features more than 30,000 unique photographs, memoirs and correspondence from the United States Army Air Force Second Air Division.

The archive was made possible thanks to a legacy of more
than $88,000 from veteran 1st Lt Bernard Newmark and is
being opened at the Forum later today.

The Second Air Division

The Second Air Division was one of the three divisions of the Eighth United States Army Air Force.

Famously, during the Second World War, the Eighth Air Force deployed the largest air strike

force ever committed to battle.

It dispatched 3,000 bombers and fighters on a day’s operation involving more than 20,000 airmen.

When the Second Air Division was at full strength, it controlled fourteen heavy bomber airfields in Norfolk and north-east Suffolk, as well as five fighter airfields.

Its headquarters was located at Ketteringham Hall, south of Norwich.

Sadly, nearly 7,000 young Americans in the Second Air Division lost their lives in the line of duty between 1942 and 1945.

A memorial library is now housed within the city’s library in their honour.

Group Capt Richard Middleton, chairman of the Second Air Division Memorial Trust, said: “Bernie Newmark’s legacy is another example of the extraordinary generosity of the veterans and of their commitment to keeping alive the memory of their fallen comrades.

“I hope that people will explore the archive and find this record of an important part of our local history interesting.”

In total, Mr Newmark left $188,000 to the trust following his death in June 2001.

He served as a co-pilot with the 458th bomber group based at Horsham St Faith.

Second Air Division digital archive, Pictured: Spectators at rodeo at Carrow Road football stadium in Norwich organised by Second Air Division headquarters, 7 August 1943. Pictured: Norfolk Record Office, MC 376/336Second Air Division digital archive, Pictured: Spectators at rodeo at Carrow Road football stadium in Norwich organised by Second Air Division headquarters, 7 August 1943. Pictured: Norfolk Record Office, MC 376/336

The memorial trust was created at the end of the war as a way of honouring the causalities lost during the conflict.

It is hoped that the new digital archive will provide a valuable resource for relatives still living across the Atlantic.

Harry Humphrey, Norfolk County Council’s vice-chairman of the communities committee, said: “This new resource will enable relatives overseas to access records of loved ones who served in World War Two and we are extremely grateful to the legacy of veteran Bernard Newmark for the development of this very important website.

“Exploring the history and experiences of servicemen and women based in our region helps us
understand their significant contribution.”

Visit www.2ndair.org.uk/digitalarchive to view the new archive

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