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The USAAF start to arrive in Britain

Boeing B-17Es under construction. This is the first released wartime production photograph of Flying Fortress heavy bombers at one of the Boeing plants, at Seattle, Wash. Boeing exceeded its accelerated delivery schedules by 70 percent for the month of December 1942. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The first elements of the U.S.A.A.F. were now arriving in Britain, the beginning of a huge armada of men and machines that would join the RAF in attacking the German occupied continent of Europe. The flight to the southern English bases from the USA could not be undertaken directly but went via Maine, Canada, Greenland, Iceland and Scotland.

1st Lt. Will S. Arnett was less than impressed when he first landed in Britain, where they transitted through Prestwick in Scotland:

I thought I’d seen everything but this place takes the cake. The people are so backward it is pitiful. This seems to have been a wealthy place at one time. The homes and buildings are just like the pictures. The streets are narrow and very crooked, bicycles are the main means of transportation. There are very few cars the and traffic is left-handed. The busses are two deckers and very old.

Fortunately the situation improved when they arrived in England:

July 28, 1942 Final Destination – Bovingdon, England

It’s wonderful to know that we are actually going to stay in one place long enough to learn what it’s all about. This is certainly beautiful country from the air. We arrived here at 5:30 P.M. This is a new field and was turned over to the U.S. Army for a training and Combat station. We will operate out of here. The post is somewhat scattered because of the possibilities of attacks. We walk 1/4 mile to the showers and latrine, the club is situated close to the showers. We have private rooms with a coal stove, a dresser and a high single bed with a round straw pillow.

The trip all the way was very interesting and we were extremely lucky to have good weather.

We left Westover Field, Mass. a week ago this morning. All our planes and P38’s got through except three. Had to leave two at BWI and two at Prestwick for repairs. They will be on later. We were the first squadron to get through without losing a plane.

Read the whole diary at War Diary of W.S.Arnett, for more on the USAAF at Bovingdon see Dacorum Heritage Trust.

James Stewart in famous recruiting film Winning Your Wings 1942:

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