Guest post: Laurie Atkins uncovers life stories behind USAAF memorials

By Usxpat on 01/07/2015

Parish Church of Rumburgh, St Michael & St Felix. In the church there is a plaque erected by the people of Rumburgh to commemorate the crew of B-24 "Nature's Nymph," 42-51116 (UPL 15147).

In the second in our series of guest posts we are thrilled to introduce Laurie Atkins, who has been recording the details of memorials in Norfolk and Suffolk over recent years and is now sharing her findings with the AAM:

I’ve spent the past few years tracking down USAAF memorials in Norfolk and Suffolk which I have now been uploading onto this site. As I was doing that, I started looking more closely into the lives of the crew members who are named on memorials commemorating crashes. I wanted to record as much information as I could, looking at websites like ancestry, fold3 and findagrave.

One of the men named on the memorial in the parish church of Rumburgh, Suffolk is Sergeant Louis H Zusser. Seven other members of his crew are named on the brass plaque inside the church. They were killed when their aircraft, B-24 42-51116, "Nature's Nymph," crashed in the village on 7 June 1944. 

As I was researching the crew members, I started getting a bit confused. There were conflicting accounts of the crash, and it gradually occurred to me that this man very probably did not die in the accident.

I did what research I could online, and then went to the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library to see what I could find there. The reports were still confusing, but I did locate one reliable source that listed Sergeant Zusser as a survivor.

But I was at a standstill. I was 95% certain that Sergeant Zusser had survived. How could I get to the 100%?
Being a bit of a terrier when it comes to mysteries like this, I couldn’t leave it there.  Going back to the Internet, I tracked down a family member, wrote to him, and received an answer very quickly. Sergeant Zusser’s grandson confirmed that he DID survive the crash, went on to have a “wonderful life,” and died in 2001 at the age of 79. He also said that there had been a rumour that Zusser’s name was on a memorial somewhere, but had no idea where, so they are excited to have the rumour confirmed.

However: there is a down side. Another young man, Second Lieutenant Robert Neumer, did die in the accident, but is not mentioned on the memorial plaque. Robert is buried with 3 other crewmembers in Winchester, Virginia.  I’m hoping that the memorial can be corrected in some way.

So this is an example of the kind of work that can be done using this site, in association with other sources. What a fantastic opportunity to share knowledge and resources from anyone who can contribute, perhaps correcting mistakes along the way. Exciting, don’t you think?



Bedfordshire 'land girls' marry American GIs in the 1940s

By BedfordshireLandGirls on 07/07/2015

I'm a historian of the British Women's Land Army in the 1940s. Part of my research involved interviewing former land girls, some of whom had met or had relationships with American servicemen in north Bedfordshire. I've written up some of these individual experiences in my book "We wouldn't have missed it for the world: the Women's Land Army in Bedfordshire 1939-1950" (Book Castle Publishing, 2008).
I have a number of photographs of land girl GI bride weddings in 1945 and the maiden and married names of these young women and their American husbands but only in relation to land girls who served close to the airfields in north Bedfordshire such as Thurleigh and Twinwood. I plan to add these to the American Air Museum online archive.
Meanwhile, you can see some of these photos on the Bedfordshire Women's Land Army website in the section called 'Roll Call': look for Peggy DAVIS (later Mrs 'Joe' Albertson), Eileen TOMLINS (later Mrs Andrew Pollack), Myra PREATER (later Mrs Trulock) and her sister Myra PREATER (later Mrs. Gerry Wiley).