Norfolk's US Military heritage celebrated at American Library grand re-opening

19 May 2022

Representatives from both sides of the Atlantic were on hand to celebrate the history of the US Air Force in Norfolk at an event held last night.

The American Library, based in Norwich’s Millennium Library, has undergone a transformation to bring the history of the 2nd Air Division to a new generation.

Among those in attendance at the event were Colonel Charles Metrolis, US Air Attaché to the UK, and family members of US Veterans who served in the East of England in the Second World War.

In addition, three American Second World War veterans joined the celebration via Zoom and spoke about their experience during the war and their gratitude for restoration of the American Library.

The American Library has undergone a complete redevelopment with new displays that allow visitors to discover what service men and women did on a typical day at a base. The new ‘Wall of Honor’ features photos of the fallen and sits alongside the 'Roll of Honor' book, providing a permanent memorial to those who lost their lives. The entrance has also been improved to make the library more open and accessible, with a new space created for an education and events programme.

Colonel Charles E. Metrolis, Unites States Air Force and Air Attaché with the US Embassy said:

“I’m honored to represent the United States at this prestigious opening of the American Library in Norwich. Not only does the library showcase the extraordinary heroism of the Greatest Generation, but its unique location in Norfolk highlights yet another shining example of our special relationship and transatlantic friendship. This living memorial housing the treasures within will be cherished by generations to come on both sides of the Atlantic”.

The American Library was originally set up in 1963 as a living memorial to the near 7,000 American personnel from the 2nd Air Division who were based in East Anglia during the Second World War and were killed in action.

Councillor Margaret Dewsbury, Cabinet Member for Communities and Partnerships at Norfolk County Council said:

“The American Library’s transformation secures the legacy of the Second Air Division in our region and ensures the stories of those service personnel continue to be told and honoured.
“I hope that more people will see what a unique opportunity the library offers. It’s a great place to learn about daily life on an air base and you can discover more about the connection between the Americans and local resident, past and present.”

Following speeches from representatives of the US Embassy and the American Library, guests were invited to explore the newly restored space.

Alongside the new displays, the collection contains over 4,000 books on all aspects of contemporary American life and the American Library runs a series of events and education programmes to help people understand the part the 2nd Air Division played in shaping the landscape and history of East Anglia.

The American Library is free to enter and is based on the ground floor of the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library in The Forum in central Norwich. You can read in the library or borrow anything from the American Library collection with a Norfolk Library and Information Service card.

There is also an extensive archive of over 30,000 original photographs, letters, memoirs and other documents about the 2nd Air Division and World War Two in the East of England which you can view online.

 Richard Middleton speaking to Colonel Charles E. Metrolis

The American Library is managed by the Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service and funded by the Memorial Trust of the 2nd Air Division USAAF, independent registered UK charity number 269047.

The work to renew the American Library was funded by the Memorial Trust with generous grants and donations from individuals and organisation that include: Heritage League of the 2nd Air Division, various local grant giving bodies, The Walter Hines Page Chapter of the Daughter’s of the American Revolution, and a number of veterans and their families.

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