About the 8th USAAF

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Between 1942 and 1945 the East Anglian region of England witnessed the arrival of what has become known as the “friendly invasion”, American servicemen of the 8th United States Army Air Force found themselves a long way from home in a familiar yet strange country.

From small beginnings, the US Army 8th Air Force grew into a large organisation that needed to be divided into three air divisions spread over the whole of East Anglia and into Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire. By the end of hostilities the Eighth Air Force strength would total 42 bomb groups, 15 fighter groups, with other supporting groups providing emergency rescue and photo reconnaissance.

Between 1942 and 1945 the Eighth Air Force saw 1008 days of enemy action and paid a very heavy price for their part on the overall allied victory. As the aircrews battled their way across Europe during the day, the ground crews worked tirelessly through the night to ensure the aircraft were repaired and serviceable and ready for the next day’s mission; this was particularly arduous in the hard winter months.

American service personnel formed enduring friendships with local people who took them to their hearts and homes, while others saw romance blossom and returned to the USA as husband and wife. Hangar dances were often held with local people invited along, and for many this American hospitality was a welcome relief from the rigors of wartime austerity.

Today this special friendship continues as US military personnel continue to serve in East Anglia; however the legacy of their forbears still remains plainly visible throughout the region despite much of the land being returned to agriculture after the war. This guide serves to highlight this legacy that is preserved in the many museums and other sites that enable current and future generations to learn of the heavy sacrifice made by these young men to ensure peace and freedom.