Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Frenchman: “Schnapps?”, US Soldier: “Hell yes.” – Volunteering at the Norwich Archive Centre

February 3, 2010 · 1 Comment

On Thursday (January 28th) I was able to spend an hour and fifteen minutes volunteering at the Norwich Archive Centre.  While there, I was able to listen to two audio recordings of two American WWII veterans.  The first audio recording was of a former 2nd Lieutenant who served as a pilot in the 44th Bomb Group.  The 2nd Lt. joined the U.S. Army Air Forces in September 1942 and was put on active duty March 1943.  He flew 35 missions over Nazi occupied Europe.  The 2nd Lt. mentioned a few humorous anecdotes, making sure to note that the pubs in Norwich were always crowded with drunken GIs.  Fond of associating with Brits, the 2nd Lt. enjoyed London very much and made sure to mention the “wall-to-wall women” there.  However, the most interesting and funny anecdote involved a bombing mission of Dresden.  Due to enemy fire, the crew was forced to bail out over Alsace-Lorraine, France.  On board were a Colonel and a Captain, both of whom argued (while the bomber was going down) about who was to be the last out of the aircraft (the Colonel won out).  When the 2nd Lt. hit the ground, he was met by two men of the Free French Forces.  After a few minutes of trying to communicate, one of the Frenchmen asked, “Schnapps?” to which the 2nd Lt. responded “Hell yes.”  Sadly, the 2nd Lt. was not able to drink up with the Frenchmen as he had to look after an injured comrade.

The second audio recording was an American veteran who was an engineer/gunner on a B-24.  Much of the recording is about describing his training and various missions, but there are a few funny stories.  The first is when this veteran decided to go to Norwich with two buddies for a night of drinking.  Of course, in order to get to Norwich they had to ride their bikes from base to there and back.  The night of drinking was undoubtedly fun but on the way back the veteran’s chain snapped.  In a moment of drunken genius, the men decided to tow the man and his broke bike back to base with their three belts.  After landing in a few ditches and acquiring some minor cuts, the men eventually made it back to base.  The second anecdote involves the veteran meeting the farther of a girl he was dating while in Britain.  The father was a retired British officer (who served 37 years) and quite the serious man.  After explaining the medals the veteran had acquired and ending with the Good Conduct Medal, the father burst out, “You blooming Yanks get a medal for chewing gum, taking out the girls and drinking beer!”  He then proceeded to retrieve his old uniform and pointed to his Good Conduct Medal, which he said took 25 years to earn.

Volunteer Time: 1 hr. 15 min.

Total Time: 3 hrs. 15 min.

Categories: Andrew F
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1 response so far ↓

  •   aidanoshea // Feb 12th 2010 at 16:57

    These are great posts, Fitz, and I continue to be jealous that you get to do this. This sheds light on my biggest question about the “friendly invasion”: Whether, beneath the surface gratitude felt towards the US airmen, there was any serious tension between the huge number of”invaders” in the area and especially the older English generations who saw the communities they were a part of so fundamentally changed by the war?

    The father’s reaction might reveal just a bit of that tension.

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