‘I Remember Them With Affection’: the USAAF in the Essex Sound and Video Archive

Feeling inspired by our recent conference on the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) in Essex?

In the Essex Sound and Video Archive, we preserve dozens of interviews with American servicemen and those who worked and lived alongside them during the Second World War. Take a listen below.

You can also browse the conference programme with links to further resources here.

Photograph of silver tape reel with black magnetic audio tape. Two handwritten labels read 'I remember them with affection'.

Radio programmes

The BBC Essex documentary ‘Essex Airfields at War – I Remember Them With Affection’ (SA 1/643/1), broadcast in 1990, is a substantial account of the history and role played by airfields in Essex during the Second World War. The BBC Essex archive also includes the original, unedited interviews recorded for the documentary, including interviews with an American soldier who helped build Willingale Airfield in 1942 and British RAF and WAAF operators who recall the Americans well.

“We just worked constantly in mud, mostly up to our knees… Concrete flying all over the place, and lorries running up and down runways which are partly built.”

Excerpt from interview with Ken Arnold, a US Engineering Battalion soldier who built Willingale airfield in 1942 (SA 1/635/1). Ken met his English wife in the Forces canteen in Epping. Read a transcript here

In 1992, BBC Essex celebrated the 50th anniversary visit of USAAF veterans with another documentary, ‘Overpaid, Oversexed, and Over Here’ (SA 1/1927/1). The anniversary also saw reports on a reception for the veterans at Silver End (SA 1/888/1) and a tea and dance at Cressing Barns (SA 1/889/1).

“We don’t have enough words in the English language we use over in America to tell you how we feel about your welcome… It’s wonderful, and we sure appreciate it.”

Excerpt from a BBC Essex report on the 50th reunion event in Silver End (SA 1/888/1). Read a transcript here

Other relevant BBC Essex programmes include the 1989 documentary ‘Wartime in Essex’ (SA 1/463/1) and interviews with American pilots Clifford Pontbriand and Julian Woods, who were both stationed at Stansted (SA 1/1183/1 and SA 1/1740/1).

On Essex Radio, the 1989 documentary ‘World War Two in Essex’ (SA 11/503/1) also features interviews with people about the American air bases in the county.

Oral histories

The Colchester Recalled oral history group also recorded many returning American airmen at the 50th anniversary visit in 1992, alongside BBC Essex. The archive (SA 8/8) includes 59 recordings at reunion events in Essex and beyond – at Black Notley, Chelmsford, Stansted, Wormingford, Debden, Great Saling, Earls Colne, Rivenhall, Boreham, Braintree, and Boxted as well as Madingley and Duxford.

Excerpt from an interview with David E. Hubler about his memories of Boxted Airfield at the reunion of the 394 Bomber Group and Eagle Squadron, Black Notley, 1992 (SA 8/8/4/1). Read a transcript here

Saffron Walden-born, Pennsylvania-based Mona Johnston talks about meeting her American husband during the war (SA 8/8/25/1). Read a transcript here

We also preserve a number of interviews about specific airfields: in 1994, Wethersfield Local History Group recorded their discussion of the airfield there that had closed the previous year (SA 24/866/1); and in 2003, the Essex Record Office interviewed four members of the 394th Bomb Group Association about their memories of Boreham Airfield during the war (SA268).

“So I haven’t liked orange marmalade since…”

One member of the 394th recalls the things he was most surprised by at Boreham Airfield (SA268). Read a transcript here

There are other references to the Americans scattered across the oral history collections – people who lived near the airfields during the war often recall the novelty of the newcomers, and the dances, candy and nylons that came with them. Many of those interviewed in the Silver End oral history project (SA733) talk about their childhood memories of the American soldiers at the nearby Rivenhall Airfield.

“This American serviceman came along and he talked to me, you know, and he more or less said, ‘Are you watching the planes?’ … and he said, ‘Would you like to go in one?'”

Silver End resident Derek Gilder talks about playing in one of the bombers on Rivenhall Airfield when he was 8 or 9 years old. Read a transcript here.

In April 2024, we were fortunate to find the real Geraldine who the 322nd Bomb Group at Andrewsfield had named a B-26 Marauder after. Last week our very own Neil Wiffen visited Geraldine to talk to her about the experience.

“Once they’d got the name on, and that, I said to them, I don’t want you making any holes in my plane, okay?”

Geraldine talking about the Marauder being named after her (SA966). Read a transcript here

To see what Marauder squadrons looked like at the time, see ‘Pioneers, Wolfpacks, and Widow-makers: The Story of Boxted Airfield’ (SA811). You can also watch the East Anglian Film Archive’s documentary ‘GI Airmen in East Anglia’ (VA 1/47/1) in our Searchroom.

To explore more recordings, search Essex Archives Online, or take a look at the Essex Sound and Video research guide on the Second World War.