The Friendly Invasion: 75th Anniversary of USAAF Tour
75 years ago, 70 airfields across East Anglia became home to nearly 250,000 American airmen and crew. Known as ‘The Friendly Invasion’, they brought with them jitterbug dancing, big band sounds and much-needed help in the desperate battle in the skies above Europe.
Tour highlights can include:
- The old USAAF airfields and surrounding villages with their memorials.
- Control towers and private museums filled with memorabilia.
- 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum, Thorpe Abbots. Originally intended as a satellite airfield for RAF Horham, but the rapid increase in size of the Eighth Airforce meant both airfields were required by USAAF. See artifacts in the original airfield control tower, Qonset huts and the airfield as it would have been when in operation from the glasshouse atop the tower.
- Imperial War Museum Duxford, Cambridgeshire: one of the most outstanding and exciting aviation destinations in the world. See the American Air Museum, Normandy Experience, Battle of Britain Exhibition and the original Operations Room. Duxford played an important role during the Battle of Britain and was later used by the United States Army Air Forces Fighter Units.
- Hylands House and Estate: known locally as The White House, this was a German Prisoner of War camp and a wireless command post for the 6th Anti-Aircraft Division. Captain Paddy Blair Maine drove a Jeep up the Grand Staircase for a bet in 1944. Tour the house and gardens.
- Chelmsford Cathedral: links between Chelmsford Cathedral and North America go right back to the days of the Pilgrim Fathers. There’s a plaque here reading ‘Founder of the State of Connecticut, Father of American Democracy’, to commemorate Thomas Hooker, a local preacher, and the South Porch celebrates the many airmen stationed nearby during WWII.
- RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire: now home to the famous Red Arrows, in 1943 the 'Dambusters', the pilots of squadron 617th who attacked Ruhr dams with the Barnes Wallis's rotating mine, lived here.
- 453rd Bombardment Group Museum: Hollywood legend Jimmy Stewart was the first Operations Officer of ‘Ol Buck’ when it started life. The 453rd flew 259 missions in B-24 Liberators, dropped 15,804 tonnes of bombs and lost 58 aircraft. This is still a working airfield and a centre of flight simulation excellence.
- American Cemetery and Memorial at Madingley: the cemetery holds the remains of 3812 members of the US military, with 5127 names recorded on the Tablets of the Missing. Most made the ultimate sacrifice in the Battle of the Atlantic or in the strategic air bombardment of northwest Europe. Deeply moving, you will also gain a better understanding of this critical campaign which contributed to the Allied victory in Europe during World War II.
- RAF Museum at Hendon and one of the finest collections of World War II German aircraft.
- Lunch in a typical country pub - possibly The Swan at Lavenham with its Airman’s Bar. See the walls covered with the signatures of servicemen stationed nearby.
Photographs: Main image: B17 crew © 100th Bomb Group Museum; American cemtery and memorial, Madingley; a control tower at Thorpe Abbotts airbase © 100th Bomb Group Museum.