Category Archives: Memorial Library

Posts to do with the administration or staffing of the Memorial

We’ll Meet Again: A Scholar’s Farewell

Well, here it is, my last month as a UEA American Library Scholar. It’s hard to believe the time has flown by so quickly and incredible to contemplate some of the historic events we’ve seen together, including a global pandemic, the election of America’s forty-sixth president and the death of Queen Elizabeth II, who as a young woman served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service during the Second World War. But then, working together through good times and bad is what the special relationship between the United States and Britain has always been about, hasn’t it? The American Library and a PhD program in creative and critical writing at the University of East Anglia were an unknown flight path a decade ago, when I was immersing myself in all things noir. I watched a lot of film noir back then, so much so that I felt like I was living in black and white in my tiny studio on Manhattan’s East Side. Some of the movies I watched from that period were not about crime, but about war, and in one I heard (for the first time, I think) Vera Lynn’s unforgettable wartime anthem, We’ll Meet Again. It’s possible my dad sang it to us when were kids—he was known to belt out classics like You’re in the Army Now and Over There and was also a lover of big band music like that arranged by bandleader and US Army Air Forces Captain Glenn Miller, who died in 1944 when the plane that was transporting him to a concert for Allied troops in liberated Paris was lost over the English Channel.

My father, Flight Officer Eugene L. Solomon, a B-17 pilot with the 384th Bomb Group, himself spent some of his leave in Paris, as evidenced by his well thumbed American Red Cross map of that city. Fortunately, he never had to use the other map he carried, a silk escape map. After flying the last strategic bombing mission in Europe on April 25, 1945, the group was chosen to move to Germany as part of the United States Air Forces in Europe and initially deployed to Istres, France in June. Before that, the crew spent VE Day in London, where the crowd was ‘packed like sardines’ and my father saw King George, Queen Elizabeth, (then) Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

Flight Officer Eugene Solomon, the author’s father, top row, second from left. The crew (not shown in listed order): Pilot Lawrence E. Thurston, Co-Pilot Eugene Leonard Solomon, Navigator Theodore T. Gore, Togglier (bombardier) Robert Lee Wilkinson, Radio Operator/Gunner William O. King, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner Oliver T. Larson, Ball Turret Gunner Elias S. Huron, Waist (Flexible) Gunner James Lindsay, Tail Gunner Ralph Cauthen. Photo courtesy of Christopher Wilkinson, the son of togglier Robert Lee Wilkinson, bottom row at left.
American Red Cross Map of Paris for service members
Silk escape map

According to Walter E. Owens’ As Briefed: A Family History of the 384th Bombardment Group, the 384th transported Allied troops to Germany and American soldiers to Casablanca for return to the US, among other missions. The latter was known as Project Green, which operated from June to September 1945 and was, according to the 384th Bomb Group’s website, ‘a key part of the “Home Bound Task Force” that returned combat troops to the USA following cessation of hostilities in the ETO. Troops were ferried from various European locations to Port Lyautey, Morocco, there to await transport home.’ 

Dad’s crew helped redeploy the 101st and the 82nd Airborne and medical personnel from field hospitals that weren’t needed anymore, some of whom were intended to be sent to the Pacific. They repatriated French citizens who had fled France and were living in North Africa, including the wife, two daughters and son of General de Gaulle’s aide de camp. Dad told us in a family interview I conducted that the crew took the kids ‘up front and let them sit in the seat and “fly the plane”’. The crew also repatriated Greek citizens who had been brought to Germany to be slave laborers. On one of their missions, they flew to an air station outside of Munich to deliver supplies and witnessed the horrifying aftermath of Dachau concentration camp. 

Another operation my father participated in was photographic mapping duty, or as he put it: ‘they photographed the entirety of Europe at 20,000 feet.’ Except, that is, for the USSR, because ‘the Russians wouldn’t let us.’ The 384th BG was inactivated in France in February of 1946; however, my father was on active duty in Europe through July, when he returned to the US.[1] In Istres, every flying officer had to get a job in a ground position, so my dad became an assistant intelligence officer, for which he had to go to intelligence school in Wiesbaden (across from the IG Farben works, a subsidiary of which produced the Zyklon B gas used in the death camps). He was also the information education officer for the Biarritz campus of the US Army University, a program that brought professors from America and elsewhere to conduct classes for servicemen and women stationed in Europe. Flight Officer Solomon returned to the US on July 17, 1946, and was relieved from active duty on September 11, 1946.

It would take many more paragraphs to list the activities I was privileged to participate in as a UEA American Scholar over the last two years. Highlights include the honor of laying the wreaths on behalf of the Second Air Division for Remembrance Week in 2021 and on Memorial Day this year at the Cambridge American Cemetery; attending the Remembrance service and Evensong at the American Chapel in St. Paul’s Cathedral; staffing the long-anticipated Library launch with colleagues in May and seeing our 2nd AD veterans movingly address us from across the pond through the magic of Zoom (yes, I cried); organizing a resoundingly successful talk by my academic supervisor at UEA, crime fiction writer and scholar Henry Sutton; engaging with the public as an ambassador of American literature and culture; and furthering the Library’s memorial mission by educating visitors about the Second Air Division’s history in East Anglia.

The US Army Air Forces monument at Cambridge American Cemetery
A B-17 flyover at Cambridge American Cemetery
The author, right, with Professor Henry Sutton at his April talk

The American Library and the Second Air Division Memorial Trust have been an invaluable resource, both in my family research as well as in supporting work on my PhD thesis with the UEA American Library Scholarship. My boundless gratitude goes out to Trust Chairman Richard Middleton, Professor Jaqueline Fear-Segal and the other Trust Governors, their American counterparts in the Heritage League, the veterans of the 2nd AD and their families, Trust Librarian Orla Kennelly, fellow Scholars and library colleagues, the Millennium Library and Norfolk County Council Library system, the Norfolk Record Office and the East Anglian community.

And here’s to you, our Scholars’ Blog readers, who commented on and shared my musings on a range of American topics.

Thank you all—but let’s not say goodbye, rather: We’ll Meet Again

—post by Suzanne Solomon

[1] His service record indicates that when he was discharged, he was attached to the 368th Bombardment Squad, 306th Bomb Group, 1st AD, which ‘engaged in special photographic mapping duty in western Europe and North Africa.’ However, there may still be more to discover about his Occupation service.


Filed under American Culture, Books, Memorial Library, World War 2

Spring 2019 Lecture Series

Spring 2019 Lecture Series - Poster-page-001

The 2AD Memorial Library’s Spring 2019 Lecture Series spotlights the multifaceted nature of studying the United States and World War II. The series features a range of scholars from different disciplines as they discuss the changing face of American culture and our understanding of our own history.

All talks will take place at the Millennium Library on Thursday evenings at 7PM. To book tickets email, find us on Eventbrite, or phone us on 01603 774747.


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“The current period of Nazi frightfulness”: Cinemagoing in the Blitz (25 April)

A night at the pictures often offers the prospect of escape, but was that possible under the threat of enemy bombers? This talk will discuss what happened to British cinemas and British cinemagoers during the Blitz.

Richard Farmer is a Lecturer in Film and Media Studies at the University of East Anglia.


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Jazz and Disability (2 May)

This talk explores how early jazz reception thought of the new music and dance as disabled and even disabling. It also considers the musical careers of key jazz musicians with disabilities, inviting us to think of jazz as an enabling musical practice.

George McKay is a Professor Media Studies at the University of East Anglia and Humanities Research Council Fellow for its Connected Communities programme.


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Of Mice and Krazy Kats: The History and Art of American Comics (9 May)

This talk will provide an in-depth examination of the complex history of American comics from early newspaper strips to contemporary graphic novels, including the birth of superheroes, WWII propaganda comics, controversial 1950s horror comics, and contemporary graphic novels.

Frederik Byrn Køhlert is a Lecturer in American Studies at the University of East Anglia.


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Indigenous London and Beyond: Native Travellers at the Heart of Empire (16 May)

The stories of Indigenous travellers, willing or otherwise, from territories that became Canada, the US, New Zealand, and Australia show the ways in which London and Britain have for centuries been bound up in the Indigenous experience.

Coll Thrush is a Professor of History and Associate Faculty in Critical Indigenous Studies at the University of British Columbia. He is also the International Investigator on the AHRC-funded project Beyond the Spectacle: Native North American Presence in Britain.


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American Apocalypse: 21st Century Climate Change Fiction (23 May)

This talk considers how the apocalyptic dangers of climate change are being addressed by American fiction. Climate change fiction, or ‘cli-fi’, offers us a way to assess, understand, and address the phenomenon of global warming and the impact of humans on their environment.

Rebecca Tillett is a Senior Lecturer in American Studies at the University of East Anglia.


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A Heroic Mass Shooter? The Politics of Netflix’s The Punisher (30 May)

Due to his unyielding methods of exacting violent justice, much has been discussed about the Punisher. What is the place of Marvel’s controversial antihero within today’s politics? How has his new Netflix series been received in the Trump era?

Miriam Kent is a Lecturer in Film and Media Studies at the University of East Anglia.

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Filed under American Culture, American History, American Politics, Memorial Library, Public Events, World War 2

Farewell from Don and Danielle

Don Allen: Well, it’s finally time. The last word you shall hear from me as one of the American Scholars at the Library. I was fortunate enough to be awarded the American Scholars scholarship two years in a row, and it has been a great two years.

I learned more about the history of my countrymen in this area during World War II than I even knew existed, and there is still so much more. I was fortunate enough to meet several heroes of the war, like Mr. Allan Hallett, a gunner in the 389th Bomb Group at Hethel, manning the top gun on a B-24 in 1945.



Meeting with the families of 2nd Air Division veterans, such as Travis Chapin, son of Lt. Robert F. Chapin (389th BG) left, and Charles H. Pool, son of 1st. Lt. Charles K. Pool (458th BG) right, and corresponding with others via email or Facebook in order to help them research their family was a great honor as well.



I was also able to visit the 448th (Seething) museum and the Imperial War Museum at Duxford (where I learned I was much bigger than most of the airmen if the size of their uniform jackets is any indication! I couldn’t even fit one arm into this one! I had to drape it over my shoulder!)


While it was a sombre occasion, attending the Memorial Day ceremony at the Cambridge American Cemetery in Madingley was an experience that I will never forget. Seeing the pictures next to nearly every name on the wall; walking around the graves; seeing the ages and names of these young heroes, seemingly all of them younger than I am now; watching the wreaths being laid. It was overwhelming.


Helping to organize and plan events that expanded on the knowledge and relationship of our two countries was a joy as well, and I hope, if you were able to attend, that you learned a little.


And finally there was the largest part of my journey, the day to day work, where I, along with Danielle, brought a live American presence to the living memorial that is the 2nd Air Division USAAF Memorial Library. Meeting new people, helping them find the information they were looking for about the USA, was so much fun. Getting the “oh, are you American?” question when they heard my accent (answer: Yup, from Massachusetts). Writing the occasional blog post, Tweeting and Facebooking, responding to email inquiries. It was fun. Far more fun than I expected. A little bit of me is sad to move on, although another part is glad that a new person will be able to experience the same things that I have.



I want to send a quick thank you to all who had a part in allowing me this journey. To Andrew Hawker, Richard Middleton, and the rest of the Governor’s Board for their amazing work in keeping the Library and the memory of these amazing men and women alive. To Libby Morgan and Jenny Christian for their tireless efforts in the running of the day to day library. To the members of the Reading Across the Pond book group, I hope you enjoyed the books I selected. To Danielle, my fellow American Scholar, for answering my messages about when I was supposed to work!

And lastly, but certainly not least, to the people of Norwich and the visitors to the Library. Showing you around the library, answering your questions about the war, attempting to explain the odd American system of government and culture. It was so much fun. I wish you all the best!



Danielle Prostrollo: The last two years have flown by! When I started this journey with the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library I had only the smallest insight into what the American presence meant to East Anglia during the War (and the echoes of that presence that have manifested in the region since then). Since then, I have gotten to know the stories and reminiscences of American servicemen from local people – almost all of them sharing their fondness for my country. The opportunities afforded me by my role as UEA American Scholar will remain with me forever. Memorial Day at Cambridge American Cemetery in Madingley, Evensong in the American Chapel of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, and the more intimate experience of spending time with the archival collection have offered me the chance to form a deeper connection with the thousands of servicemen who were here throughout the War.

I want to thank the Memorial Trust for offering me the opportunity to have an (almost) unprecedented two years of these experiences, getting to know the library patrons and helping to organise events that will help to spread the message of the library to new folks. The numerous lectures about topics ranging from the use of aircraft in WWI to current American affairs have expanded my own knowledge and allowed me to see the local, non-academic interest in these subjects – something that I think should be important to all of us nestled firmly into academia.

When planning events I tried to bring new topics and event formats to the public, allowing Don and the library staff to concentrate on U.S. politics and WWII lectures. I organised Thanksgiving event that included a brief lecture from Don about the history of the holiday as well as a tasting event after. And I made pumpkin and sweet potato pie, as well as candied pecans and ginger spice cake for the event to allow people to taste some of the traditional flavors of the American holiday. I also organized an event exploring the history of roller derby as an American sport and its presence in Norfolk, bringing members of the local teams, Norfolk Brawds and Smacksons, to give a demonstration of the event. Most recently I organized a music event called The Great American Songbook which brought the singing duo Timescape to the library to sing 1940s-era music. During the event I gave the history of six different WWII songs interspersed by a live performance of each tune. The audience was toe-tapping along with the singers dressed in a 2nd Air Division uniform and War-era dress.

Multiple trips to the 2nd Air Division airfields were a big highlight of my time with the library. The volunteers who devote so much of their time to the maintenance and memory of the airmen and townspeople who helped to take care of the airmen by having them over for dinner or – gasp – fell in love with them are the definition of local heroes doing an often thankless job. And I thank them!

I will miss my time behind the enquiry desk at the library but am looking forward to attending more events and perusing the new cookery books over the next year or so. Thank you to all of the library staff and Trust governors for being so warm and inviting, allowing me the opportunity to expand my horizons and learn a deeper kind of empathy for our two nations shared history.



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Book Review: Wonder Woman – Ambassador of Truth

By Danielle Prostrollo

“As lovely as Aphrodite—as wise as Athena—with the speed of Mercury and the strength of Hercules—she is known only as Wonder Woman, but who she is, or whence she came, nobody knows!”—All-Star Comics #8 (December 1941-January 1942)


New in the collection at the Memorial Library is a new Wonder Woman compilation. The hardback details the history of the character and follows each of her incarnations – from her first appearance in Action Comics, the Lynda Carter’s TV series, multiple animated series, and the recent feature film as well as beautiful photograph and several inserts, reproductions of Amazonian ephemera, as well as interviews with people key to the story of Diana Prince.

This book will appeal to all readers – young and old, those new to the Wonder Woman story and those who have followed her for years. It is easy to take several passes through this book in short order, page through for the photographs, again for the interviews and footnotes, and a third time to take in the great written history. At 175 pages you’ll fly through the book as if it takes no time at all.

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Filed under American Culture, American History, Books, Memorial Library