Halesworth’s American war museum extends USAAF displays

It was once a key airfield in the second world war where more than 3,000 American fighter pilots and crew prepared for battle.

Together they lived and worked side-by-side as they put their lives on the line to help fight for our freedom.

But if you ask many people in Halesworth, they wouldn't be able to tell you their town had an airfield.

However, thanks to a new extension a museum at the former Halesworth (Holton) Airfield Station 365 is now able to fully pay tribute to all those who flew from there.

Between 1942 and 1946 the site was a busy wartime base, with the 56th Fighter Group 'Zemke's Wolfpack' and the 489th Bomb Group among those to call it home for a short time.

Up until this year The Halesworth (Holton) Airfield Museum could not house all of the memorabilia, but after the Bernard Matthews company, which owns the site, provided another room, the museum is able to show the impact of the base in the war efforts.

Previously the 489th Bomb Group memorabilia had been kept at Hardwick, near Bungay.

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Museum committee member Buzz Took said: 'We have got a completed airfield museum which is what we wanted.'

The new room has allowed for much expansion, with jackets, medals, models and part of a P47 Thunderbolt wing joined by uniforms, flags and an original detention room door.

There are photographs of every pilot, a research room full of enhanced wartime images, and more items continue to be sent in and found on a regular basis.

The museum started as a collection of family wartime memorabilia but as donations increased the volunteers asked the Bernard Matthews company for the use of a building on the site.

They were allowed to use one at the end of what was one of the three main runways, and opened in 2000.

It has welcomed visitors from across the world, with many former pilots returning to have a look around, including Lt Gen Gerald Johnson, who was amazed to find a model of his own P47 Thunderbolt.

Mr Took said: 'Lots of the top pilots have visited our museum, and all of them have got stories to tell.'

The volunteers open the museum for free and encourage children to visit and learn about the history.

Mr Took, whose father was a civilian engineer on the base, said: 'To us it is so important that people don't forget it. They were all young lads when they came up here and to give their lives for the future generations, it is something uncanny in a way.'

The museum is open every Sunday from 2pm between Easter and the end of October.

See today's Weekend pull-out for more on the 'Friendly Invasion' and Friday's EDP for a spread of some of the enhanced wartime photographs belonging to the museum.

•See the link at the top of the screen for a photo gallery from the museum.

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