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The history of the American Library

Members of the Second Air Division of the Eighth United States Army Air Force were based in the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk during the Second World War.

Nearly 7,000 young Americans who served with the division lost their lives during the conflict.

The division’s senior officers agreed at the end of the war to honour the fallen with a memorial in Norfolk.

All personnel supported their appeal for funds in 1945 and this money was placed under the care of the Memorial Trust of the Second Air Division USAAF, now a registered UK Charity.

The Second Air Division Memorial Room was opened to the public in 1963 in the new Norwich Central Library.

Smaller collections of American books were housed at "wing collections" in the public libraries at Attleborough, Dereham, Long Stratton and Sprowston.

The Memorial Room, which was dedicated on June 13, 1963, contained a Roll of Honor as well as a collection of books on various aspects of American life.

On 1 August 1994, a devastating fire broke out in the Norwich Central Library. All of the books and display items in the Memorial Room, including uniforms and photographs, were lost. Apart from a few exceptions, the records escaped the fire as they were deposited with the Norfolk Record Office, which was housed in the basement of the building and was largely undamaged.

The Memorial Library was moved to temporary quarters until its new home, in the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library inside the Forum, opened on November 1 2001.

Many veterans of the Second Air Division came to Norwich, which was selected as the venue for their annual convention that year, to mark the occasion.

The library, through the Memorial Trust of the Second Air Division USAAF, has been funded largely by members of the Second Air Division Association (now dissolved) and veterans who served with the Second Air Division. The Heritage League of the Second Air Division now supports the work of the library.

In 2020 the library was refurbished and rebranded as American Library. It will open to the public in 2021. Its aim is to honour the memory of those from the 2nd Air Division who lost their lives in WWII, and to be a place of cultural exchange between the people of the United Kingdom, specifically East Anglia, and the people of the United States of America. The Library comprises an exhibition about the 2nd Air Division and over 4,000 books which include non-fiction on all aspects of American life, history and culture as well as the best in classic and contemporary fiction. The Library runs a varied events and education programme. The book stock and programming reflect the amazing diversity of American life. We also have 30,000 original photographs, letters, memoirs and other documents available online in our archive, most of which is available online. Visit the Second Air Division digital archive for more details.

For more about the work and history of the Second Air Division Memorial Library, you can download a copy of our brochure.

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