A new book recalls the days of the friendly invasion when thousands of young American airmen arrived in Norfolk - many never returned home.

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Between 1942 and 1945 there were as many as 50,000 American men and women within 30 miles of Norwich, with an airfield approximately every five miles.

This is hard to imagine in today’s Norfolk.

As the years pass, many of the bases of the 2nd Air Division are no longer visible on the ground, having reverted to farmland, housing or industrial estates.

However, each base has it own memorial. A number of enthusiastic volunteers have set up museums to preserve the reality of life on an airbase for present and future generations.

Seething control tower and the chapel/gymnasium building at Hethel are now museums and Hethel also contains material from Attlebridge.

There are other airbase museums at Halesworth, Shipdham, Hardwick and aviation museums at Horsham St Faith and Flixton, near Bungay.

All these are excellent places to recall the events of the war as played out in the fields of East Anglia.

And of course in the heart of Norwich at The Forum, the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library is dedicated to making sure the links between East Anglia and the United States are promoted in every possible way.

Almost 6,900 young Americans from the division lost their lives defending the cause of freedom; they must never be forgotten.

The latest book to investigate that story is by respected Norwich author and historian Frank Meeres.

It tells the story of the experiences of these incomers, using extracts from their own letters and journals, and recalls what the people of Norfolk thought of these “friendly invaders.”

The personal diaries written by the young airmen at the time give us a moving and poignant account of what life was like for them in Norwich and Norfolk of seven decades ago.

A time when large parts of Norwich lay in ruins and people - mostly women and children - were surviving on rations.

The airmen may have had money in their pockets but they were putting their lives on the line every time they took to the skies.

<t> The Yanks knew how to enjoy themselves and how to put on a show. This rodeo packed out Carrow Road in the summer of 1943.

<t> Norfolk at War: Wings of Friendship by Frank Meeres is published by Amberley at £14.99.

<t> Coming up: A look at life in Norwich and Norfolk through the eyes of young Americans and how they were told to behave.

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