Film launched to mark 70th anniversary of American forces in Norfolk
The stories of American airmen based in Norfolk during the second world war are set to be told as part of a new film, which will be released to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the start of bombing raids on Germany.
The movie Nose Art and Pin Ups has been created by former BBC Look East producer Gail Downey as a lasting memorial to the efforts of the USAAF's 8th Air Force and explores the various themes of the art used on the bombers' noses, which included pictures of women, symbols of US states and images of animals and cartoon characters.
To complete her film, Gail tracked down 12 veterans from the 8th Air Force, including two who served with the 100th Bomb Group at Thorpe Abbotts near Diss, after contacting the American Historical Society.
She then visited the US to speak to the crew members about how creating the nose art made their lives more bearable and gave them a morale boost during the difficult times of war, as well as interviewing Don Allen, a crew chief at an American base at Debden in Essex who designed some of the nose art.
The film also provides poignant accounts of the bombing raids, including the memories of Thorpe Abbotts airman Bob Shoens, a navigator on the bomber Our Gal Sal, who described returning home from a mission with his crew expecting to be greeted by crowds of fellow airmen, but finding the air base deserted.
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When he asked the commander where his friends were, the commander broke down in tears and told him the other bomber crews had been lost over Germany.
Gail also speaks to his colleague Russell Engel, a pilot on the Squawkin' Hawk, who also flew from Thorpe Abbotts.
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She said: 'These were young men, thousands of miles from home, who faced death every day and they told me the artwork personalised their aircraft and gave them something to pat before and after every mission. It was also much easier to talk about 'Our Gal Sal' or 'Turnip Termite' than plane number 123. People remember names, not numbers.'
She added of all the bombers that went out to fight in the war, only one in seven returned and servicemen distanced themselves from one another for fear that a potential friend could be taken away from them at any one time.
Gail said: 'We wanted to do the film to keep the veterans' stories alive.'
The movie Nose Art and Pin-Ups is available to pre-order from www.noseartfilms.co.uk and will be shown exclusively in select cinemas throughout the UK.
From August 17, the date of the 70th anniversary, it will be on sale on the websites Amazon UK and Ebay as well as a wide variety of museum shops at �15.99 plus �2.25 postage and packing.