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US Air Force Photos of England at War Available to Public for First Time

Black-and-white aerial photographs offering a bird’s eye view of England as it changed during the second world war are being made available to the public for the first time.

The 3,600 images include pictures of bomb damage to Old Trafford in Greater Manchester, as well as other towns and cities. They also show ancient monuments surrounded by anti-tank defences in West Sussex, and troops at play at a US army camp in Wiltshire.

They were taken by US army air forces (USAAF) photographic reconnaissance units, stationed at bases across England in 1943 and 1944, after the US joined the war in December 1941.

Damage to the main stand of Manchester United’s stadium can be seen after it was hit in a bombing raid in March 1941. Old Trafford was not used again for football until 1949. In another photo, taken through a break in the clouds, B-17 bombers of the Eighth Air Force are seen flying over the Brecks in Norfolk.

A photograph of Newbury racecourse shows it being used as a marshalling yard for military equipment.

An aerial view of Newbury racecourse covered in rows of military equipment

The collection is available to view in an online, searchable map on the Historic England archive.

Duncan Wilson, the chief executive of Historic England, said: “Our USAAF collection records changes taking place in England as a result of the second world war, as well as capturing fascinating incidental detail, like American troops playing baseball.

An aerial view of a US army camp on the outskirts of Devizes in Wiltshire, taken on 30 April 1944

“Our collection of USAAF wartime photographs were taken in England by the pilots and aircraft of squadrons that provided intelligence for the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany. This came at a cost, with many pilots killed in the line of duty.” He said making the images available to the public highlighted the vital role aerial reconnaissance played in the second world war.

Source: The Guardian