Thursday, October 27, 2016

From a Ring to an Archive

Those who have followed the First to Fall story from the beginning of this blog in 2008 will know how the West Point class ring of William Edward Cramsie inspired an international effort to learn his story and find his remains.  That path has been long and winding, with moments of joy, frustration and absolute wonder.  One of the highlights along that way was the founding of an Archive at Gainesville, Missouri to honor Bill Cramsie and those who served with him during World War II in the 416th Bomb Group.  That Archive, in the few years since its inception, has become a serious research center—collaborating in more than a dozen ongoing projects with professional researchers in Europe and the U.S.  Among these, several have produced significant journal articles and books in French, German and English that highlight the role of the 416th and share a vast array of documents and photos from the 416th Archive collection.  Of equal significance is the Archive's superb website developed and maintained entirely by members of the extended 416th family.

A large part of the success enjoyed by this Archive, still in its infancy, is due to the sense of ownership that surviving veterans and the families of deceased veterans have in this not-for-profit facility.  Donations of original WWII records, photographs, letters, diaries and memorabilia of all sorts are literally pouring into the research center, as are offers of help from volunteers with exceptional backgrounds and dedication.  All of this activity has not gone unnoticed or unheralded.  At the 2016 reunion of 416th veterans, hosted by the Archive in Gainesville, Dr. Vernon L. Williams recognized the Archive and its founders with the East Anglia Air War Project's  George Bledsoe Preservation Award.  Dr. Williams is the Air War Project's Director and Professor of History at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas.

 Dr. Vernon Williams reads the designation of 
George Bledsoe Preservation Award for 2016 to 
Doris and Wayne Sayles, founders of the 416th Bomb Group Archive 

The Archive plays an ever-increasing role in reconsructing the life and times of those who played such a crucial role in the tactical air war over Europe in 1944 and 1945

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