My Grandfather. My Hero.
I thought maybe I would put this here to let everyone know about my grandfather. Benjamin E. Brink.
He was a waist gunner in a B-24 liberator named "No feathered injun" and was shot down along with 9 other brave crew members on sept 18, 1944 over german held belgium.
A book was written about this and I thank my dear friend Mark Van Den Dries for gathering an expedition team and locating the actual crash site and documenting everything in a book called "Noodsein Boven Zeeland"
Pics and links to come.
He also survived the 600 mile "black death march".
There are currently 2 of Mark Van Den Dries friends translating the book to English. All books are printed in Duetch. Mark sent me one of the first copies in the U.S. And even signed it. Pretty cool.
I will try and post the translations by chapters if anyone is interested. The book even has pictures where I grew up in PA of my great grandmothers house where I grew up and a picture of my aunt Norma when she was young.
He also fought some skirmishes in the alutian islands near alaska and went on to test the new f-86 sabre during the korean war.
I'll be reading all your links , thanks for sharing
My Grandfather was a bombardier on a B-29 (named Monsoon) (20th AF, 58th BW, 40th BG, 25th BS - in fact, my avatar is his unit patch). I used to sit for hours and listen to his stories before he passed away. He told of one mission when they were flying from China (they later flew from Tinian) and came back with 408 holes in the plane and one crew member killed and another wounded.
My wife's Grandfather was captured by the Germans in North Africa at the Battle of Kassarine Pass and spent the remainder of the war as a POW in the Stalag Luft III (IIRC).
I have several pics and will try to post them. Thanks again for sharing!
Always cool to hear war stories. Spaceman, I'd like to see a pic of the plane with 408 holes!!
Very cool, did they say why they crossed the "No" out on no feathered injun?
Will do some searching/asking to see if I could find some. Wish I could help! I am still kicking myself for not asking more when he was alive!
Thank you for sharing this!
War in Zeeland
When in 1933 the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP), also known as the NAZI Party, seized power in Germany the opinion in The Netherlands was divided. In the thirties, the Great Depression had hit our country hard. It caused much poverty and discontent. Many compatriots hoped for a better time with good economic prospects. Some embraced the ideas and the diligence of our eastern neighbors while others looked with suspicion to the expanding arms industry and the fierce anti-Jewish and bellicose rhetoric proclaimed during the NAZI party days in Nuremberg. Only after Austria and Czechoslovakia were recruited to join the Third Reich in March 1938, it occurred to the Dutch that Hitler might not want to limit his control to these two countries. By the end of September, The Dutch government responded with an announcement of mobilization. It included the enlisting of conscripts from different regions of the country to man various strategic positions. A few days later, the order was withdrawn. This vacillating attitude was typical of the Netherlands in the years between the wars. As in the First World War, the government tried to maintain neutrality, but when war cries sounded from the east, we began to get worried. Initially, we still hoped that the Netherlands was void of any significance for the Germans because the grand prize had to be France. However, we became more and more aware that the Netherlands was indeed of strategic importance. In the thirties, France was protected by the Maginot Line, a line of fortifications to defend its border with against a surprise attack from Germany. The Belgian and German borders were fairly well guarded, making North Brabant (Noord Brabant) a South central mainland province of the Netherlands strategically important. The Germans viewed it as a route to France. In August 1939, once again, a call for general mobilization was sounded. All Dutch conscripts from the period 1924-1939, had to resign their jobs to rejoin their units. Under the leadership of Senior General Winkelman, they had to form defense lines to protect the Netherlands against the threat from the east. Once the call for arms was sounded, there were some 250,000 men in motion. Because we had few military installations, many soldiers were billeted in private homes, in schools or whatever buildings were available. Where they were stationed, there were extraordinary laws enforced. Thus, the military were allowed in homes and had access to property, as determined by the Government. Under this law, the country's best horses were seized to transport war material.
One of the conscripts who had to report, was a young blacksmith from the village of Zaamslag, Zealandic Flanders located near the Belgium border. This blacksmith plays an important role later in the story. In September 1936 Nico van Biezen moved to the former Zealandic island South Beveland – to the town Heinkenszand, not far from the city of Goes. He had an old forge and a house purchased on Stationsweg, at the junction to Dorpsstraat and Clara's Pad, these were the tree main roads in Heinkenszand. Immediately after the move, he went to work and in the following year he married his fiancée Suus Geensen who was from Axel. Nico wrote in this in his memoirs:
"On April 22, 1937 we got married in the Axel town hall in The Dutch Reformed Church at Zaamslag. The Wedding Text was from Psalm 121 verse 2: “My help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven earth.” On 23 April we traveled to our new home, and that same day went to work. In our case, it went like clockwork and we lived there happy and joyful. However, it was a bad time economically. With diligence and skill there was a way to earn a living. Our happiness grew in short time. On April 21, 1938 our daughter was born, a beautiful child. We were all healthy, the delivery went well and our future seemed assured to enjoy a full life. Then emerged this villain who lived in Germany. He was a scoundrel that became a murderer of millions of people. He shattered our happiness. I was an army sergeant at the Horse Artillery Corps (also known as the Yellow Riders). As quartermaster in the mobilization, I was instructed to receive horses to be delivered to Bergen op Zoom, a city located in the south region of the Netherlands. The general mobilization became fact. I had to close my forge while my wife stayed alone with our child. Good luck, happiness and prosperity had disappeared. The last day in Bergen op Zoom, I was visited by my wife and child. I received an enlarged photograph of them as a gift. I was very pleased with their visit, but bringing them back to train station was a difficult thing. She was a brave woman and of good spirit. We had both remembered our wedding text. It gave me a lot of pain that I would not be able to continue to help or support these two treasures. How should they manage?"
The fear the Dutch government had was not unjustified. On 1 September 1939, a week after the Dutch army had begun mobilization, the Fall Weiss, the German attack on Poland started. Despite fierce opposition from the Polish armed forces, the country was mangled by the pact their German neighbors from the west had concluded with the Russian neighbors from the east. Two days after the invasion of Poland, the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany. What everyone feared became true: Europe would again be the battleground for a war that spread like an ink stain all over the world. As in the First World War, the Dutch government still hoped to remain neutral. Yet it maintained close contacts with British and French Governments for security and continued to mobilize troops that remained on stand by.
Nico: "Our destination was the Peel where we were billeted. Every day, we spent with the horses and further boredom ensued. We would try anything to make our days more useful. But the Netherlands wanted to remain neutral as it had during 1914-1918. But in the meantime, the Germans overran Europe. The German people crawled as slaves for this sadist Hitler. With a Sieg Heil, the German army plunged the world into a destructive fire. In Peel, there were many soldiers who worked on the excavation of tank traps and made barbed wire barriers. We, the mounted soldiers, helped them with this and also had to take care of the horses. I had my own horse and I have ridden it whenever I could. Sometimes, we had to parade ride when some bigwig came to visit."
"Fortunately, because I had my own business, I was given leave. At home, my wife also got into her stride. While I was home, I started work early. I needed to maximize the work I did while I was on leave.
The following incident occurred one morning. We were early at work work when about half past six, there was an inspector of the Inspectorate at the door. It turned into a roaring fight. I did not wanted to answer his questions. I asked him if he wasn’t ashamed of harassing me while I had so many problems. I had the feeling I was dragged down in a swamp and that this man was giving me the last push on the head. I chased the man out the door with an iron rod. He was lucky, that he could close the door in my face. By the time I caught up with him, he was in his car and sat there with the door locked. I was white hot and smashed a few dents in his car roof. But then I asked myself: what have I done? My woman was upset, and my old servant confused. I’ve attacked an official and damaged government property. My immediate boss in the army was 1st Lt. Van Aken, a lawyer in civilian life. He wrote a letter to the Labour Department and we heard of it no more "
Then a harsh winter with temperatures below freezing came while the mobilized conscripts were waiting for things to happen. In January 1940, an Elfstedentocht (a speed skating race in the province Frisia that can only be organized when the whole track between eleven cities is frozen solid) occurred for the first time since1933. After the spring had come, what was feared happened. Germany had attacked Norway and Denmark the day before on 9 May 1940, and now it was our turn. The battle began on 10 May 1940 when German troops simultaneously invaded the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg by an operation called Fall Gelb.
Nico: " The Germans attacked us with a great number of planes. However our march and the positioning of our guns proceeded orderly. After one day, we got the message to withdraw behind the waterline. We had two bridges; so-called boat pontoon bridges laid by the Engineers. German planes bombarded these bridges despite of our anti aircraft fire. However, all our people made it across the bridges. A horse was hit and the animal died screaming in pain. We threw the beast into the river Maas because it obstructed the bridge. Our main task was clear, kill as many paratroopers as possible behind our positions.
Each five men got a machine gun and a luxury car. We hunted these paratroopers and killed them with an overwhelming hatred. When things settled down, your thoughts went back home. I had a woman with child, unprotected, and abandoned. Praying and cursing and the hate, and I do mean hate, the terrible thoughts I had for the enemy. They had made people unhappy, destroyed young families and death. Perhaps it would affect ours also? That beautiful woman and that dear child, dead?? Damn, damn, damn it! Shoot them! How can a man be so full of hate!
Of course we were also hit. I've saw them lie in the church in the village of Zoelen. Amongst them there was no one I knew. The fleeing of our government and the Queen to England, on May 13, was a moral blow for the Dutch. But it was better this way!"
In Heinkenszand, where Nico's wife Suus and daughter had remained behind, the people where awakened that morning by sound of incoming German bombers that bombed the airports of Zeeland. It was impossible to deny; the dreaded war had broken out and Zealand would not be spared. The Dutch soldiers with their outdated weapons were no match against the German forces and did not have much choice but to surrender or retreat. Vital points such as bridges and airports were mercilessly bombed. To the east the Dutch armed forces had to stop the advancing German troops, who had begun with the inundation of the former island South Beveland, the part that divorced Zealand from North Brabant. From the flooded villages came a somber procession of cars, horse carts, bicycles and walking refugees going in search of a safe haven in South Beveland and the next former island Walcheren. The Dutch soldiers received help from Zealandic Flanders; French troops, including some Moroccan soldiers, crossed the Scheldt River and swarmed Walcheren and Zuid-Beveland, to prevent the Germans coming in from Zeeland and Belgium to push through to their homeland. While here and there was bombed by the enemy, they entrenched themselves behind the French hastily raised lines. While French and Dutch troops tried to take down German planes and paratroopers, others, along with local police forces, were on the hunt for spies; all Germans living in Zeeland, NSB (The Dutch National Socialist Party) and other suspicious individuals. It was great blow when on 14 May on the radio, the news came that Rotterdam was bombed, despite the fact the city had previously surrendered. This attack was retaliation for the Dutch resistance delaying the German invasion. The bombardment killed about 800 people and 80,000 people were left homeless.
Nico: "How mean was that done by the Germans. Rotterdam bombed. So many civilians killed. Surrender demanded, or more cities flattened, more civilians dead! Murderers! Bastards! We were taken prisoner of war and placed in the meadows around Hei and Boeicop, land of pastures and water. I filed the number of my horse from his hoof and traded it with a farmer who I had met before in a meadow for a farmer’s overall. I wanted to go home. I was possessed by that thought. It was too far to walk and occasionally I got a ride. I had thrown my saber, rifle and other equipment into the water. I kept my revolver. I went with fear and trembling to home. But thank God, the woman and child, though with much fear and trembling, and surprise waited there for me. I wish to thank our neighbors, doctor Griep and pastor Renting for the help and assistance they gave my family."
The Germans threatened that other Dutch cities would undergo the fate of Rotterdam. The Netherlands was on its knees. The Government of the Netherlands surrendered a day later except for Zealand. Although it was obvious that eventually Zealand would be gone, the Dutch government wanted to buy time for the retreating French. This would give them a chance for a safe retreat. On the nights of 14 and 15 May, the day of accepting military defeat, German troops overran the positions in Bath and the Zanddijk and conquered Zuid-Beveland on 16 May. To their horror, the people from Zealand saw heavily armed German troops marching through the polders (low-lying tracts of land enclosed by embankments (barriers) known as dikes) to wipe out the last resistance on Walcheren and South Beveland. Although the Dutch soldiers who had escaped their arrest, were demoralized, the French troops fought fiercely and suffered heavy losses at the Sloedam, the dam that separated South Beveland from Walcheren. Middelburg, the main city of Walcheren, was hit and largely destroyed. Initially, it was assumed that this destruction was caused by German bombing. There were indeed Heinkel 111 aircraft (often masqueraded as a transport aircraft, though its actual purpose was to provide the Luftwaffe with a fast medium bomber) bombs seen above the city, but subsequent studies showed that the city was destroyed mainly by artillery fire. It is even possible that French shells hit the city. Yet the fight on Zealand territory took until the end of May. But the Germans wanted to hurry, the Zealand coast was important for them. Initially, they saw it as a springboard to England. England was also slated to be incorporated into the Third Reich. While the Germans were advancing to the coast, the battle-weary French who had survived the battle retreated over the Western Scheldt River to Zealandic Flanders. On 30 May the last piece of the Netherlands fell to the Germans and The Führer could finally claim that he had conquered the Netherlands. Germany stated on May 30, the Commissioner, the Austrian jurist and politician Arthur Seyss-Inquart would command the Netherlands; he was ordered to make the Dutch population ready to be a part of the Nazi dream. This Commissioner of the occupied Dutch territories was given command of four General Commissioners: one for the security sector, one for justice, one for finances and for spreading the national socialist ideas among the population. In Zeeland, the highest German authority, the second plenipotentiary (with full powers) of the Reich Commissioner Willi Muenzer, who reigned from the Walcheren village Koudekerke. His main task was to instill National Socialism for the Zealanders. By doing so, he could make Zealand part of the Nazi empire without too much trouble. The main Dutch authority in Zealand was a man from Axel: Petrus Dieleman the Commissioner of the province.
The thousands of French and Dutch soldiers in Walcheren became prisoners of war and were marched off to the east, back through South Beveland. There they had to spend the night under the open sky, without food or water, and then were put into trucks and trains to be transported to Breda. NSB and other pro-German people were released from the camps they were put into.
The occupation began. The soldiers of the Wehrmacht positioned themselves and filled the streets. At first, everything was quite relaxed. Most citizens were angered at the bombarded of Rotterdam and Middelburg, but the German soldiers that they saw in the streets and in shops were just decent guys. Although they gradually began to show all the characteristics of an occupying army, those German soldiers didn’t cause the biggest aversion. They were often ordinary men and they received disproportionately pay of the Wehrmacht, that they spent in the Dutch shops and restaurants. Dutch middle class earned quite some money on their salaries. No, the greatest aversion was caused by their own people; the NSB and other individuals who offered their help to the occupiers. The leader of the NSB Zealand, Jan Dekker from the city of Goes, settled in his hometown his district office. Before the war the WA, the department within the NSB that secured the meetings and demonstrations, was forbidden to wear uniforms. But now the Germans were the boss, they finally could hit the streets in their black uniforms.
Nico: "There were also marching exercises in our village of the NSB; black uniforms, large hats adorned with gold braid and of course their fine boots. Dangerous people, those traitors."
Although the Germans were initially trying to win the Zealand souls by holding meetings and ostentatious parades with their impressive uniforms, the pressure of the occupation was soon felt. The high Dutch police officers were largely replaced by NSB. Both the police and the gendarmerie were the occupiers and an extension of the Sicherheitsdienst (intelligence agency of the SS) or the Grüne Polizei (uniformed regular police force in Nazi Germany. Because of their green uniforms, they were also referred to as Grüne Polizei). New applicants who aspired to a position, first had to have Nazi ideologically militaristic training. Because the police and the gendarmerie had to perform orders of the occupying forces, they were labeled by many as followers. Of course there were also men who liked to cooperate with the new rulers. They often worked their way to the top, yet many agents used their position to assist the public in these confusing times. Many risked their lives in the resistance movements by warning of an impending raid or were committed to hid and help illegals. However, they could not prevent many of freedoms that had been granted, from being gradually decreased.
Nico: "We were hit with a number of actions many related to the supply, of iron and steel. Also there was registration with the various agencies. But it came down to this, that the Germans took as much as possible from our rich country. What the Dutch had left, we had to divide as economically as possible. Then all the former POW’s had to register in the city of Amersfoort at a Nazi concentration camp. I went to Amersfoort, but not within the camp. When we left in the morning, I kissed my wife and my treasure of a child. With a "see you tomorrow" I stepped out the door with a small suitcase in hand, filled with some food. But my neighbors had a different idea, because they came dragging with large suitcases. My neighbor Jaantje was so filled tears of emotion she could not speak. She was convinced that the split with her husband would take years. My other neighbor Piet had a good heart, and promised my other neighbor that he would support his wife Jaantje as best he could. That gave him some comfort and once we were sitting on the train, my neighbor showed more willpower. We shared great laughter when our neighbor thought he had his tobacco in the suitcase and opened it. Instead of tobacco he had everything else; shoe boxes for one year, with brushes, warm vests and long johns and socks. He could survive for years! The soldier sitting next to my neighbor rolled off the long johns from the suitcase. It was a very hot day so we had many laughs because of it. My neighbor had to drag his heavy suitcase all through Amersfoort."
Zealanders who openly rejected National Socialism, were identified and arrested, or in broad daylight thrashed by collaborationist compatriots of the WA or the hated Landwacht (paramilitary police formation). There was a strict censorship on newspapers and the civilians later had to surrender all radios. Housing, transport and goods were recovered. The strategically located Zealand was soon Sperrgebiet ("Prohibited Area") where one could go in and out only with a special permit. The German plan to conquer England in 1942 was given, but they had to defend themselves against British and (later on) American attacks from the sea, the whole coast of Zeeland became part of the Atlantic Wall. This Western European defense of northern Norway to the Spanish border was installed by Hitler himself. He had created a line which consisted of about 17,500 bunkers. In Zealand, and especially in Walcheren, numerous concrete bunkers were constructed and the beaches were full of different barriers.
Everywhere the public had a curfew after 8 PM and had to blind all windows to deceive the Allied bombers. Eventually almost everything: food, clothing, footwear, tobacco, went on receipt. As of May 1941, every Dutchman aged 14 and older had to carry at all times, an identity card in their pocket. People of Jewish descent had a "J" stamped in their identity card. In the course of the war, these became a formidable weapon to persecute Jews, resistance fighters and those in hiding. The occupier and his henchmen were everywhere. They were at roadblocks to check whether the identity card was with you. It was not long until Jewish office workers from Zealanders were replaced by workers who were pro-German. A year later they started picking up Jewish people who were put on transport. They dragged from Amsterdam and Westerbork to the east where they tried to exterminate European Jewry. Zealand notables who were known as anti-German, were relieved from their main functions and replaced by members of the NSB and other German sympathizers. Clergy teaching from the pulpit who went against the harsh and neo-pagan doctrine, were sometimes marked by their own church members, after which they were arrested and often were interned. In response to the various acts of resistance the General Commissioner for the safety and SS police leader Hanns Rauter was commissioned to arrest and take one thousand leading Dutch citizens. They were interned in two camps at Brabant; St. Michielsgestel and Haaren. Once an attack somewhere on the occupier or his henchmen took place, these hostages would be shot.
1: Fall Blau (Blue Plan) = the military preparatory studies of the German army.
Fall Weiß (White Plan) = the conquest of Poland.
Fall Grün (Green Plan) = the conquest of Czechoslovakia.
Fall Gelb (Plan Yellow) = the conquest of the Low Countries.
Fall Rot (Red Plan) = the conquest of France.
2: Because many ex-soldiers became members of the Dutch resistance, there came a call from the German authorities on 29 April 1943. It was stated that all 300,000 Dutch soldiers that were registered as prisoners of war in 1940, had to registered again to report to work in Germany. This resulted in the April-May strike involving nearly two hundred people killed by German reprisals. Probably, Nico could avoid going to Germany because he had a statement of indispensability, possibly provided by the mayor of Heinkenszand.
Nico Biezen during mobilization.
Resistance in the Polders
(low-lying tracts of land enclosed by barriers known as dikes)
The Zeeland region known as the "Bag of South Beveland” hangs like a sack under the former island. (located between the Oosterschelde (Eastern Scheldt estuary) and Westerschelde (Western Scheldt estuary). In this region, the land and sea affect each other in a special way. Pieces of land are given back to the sea and there are areas where water is dried by human activity. It is a beautiful landscape and has existed since the eleventh century wrestled from the sea by reclamation. Even now the landscape is characterized by countless kilometers of winding dikes whose sides are usually planted with double rows of poplar trees. The many farms in this area are still characterized by detached, black painted barns along the dikes. The frames of windows and doors of these barns are painted with white trimming, so the farmer can see where he is in the dark. The soil in this agricultural area is fertile and the climate is mild. The region is traditionally known for growing fruit and vegetables.
Most villages in the “bag” are part of the Municipality Borsele whose administrative center is not the similar sounding Borssele village, but is located in the village Heinkenszand. Heinkenszand lies about 14 kilometers east of Middelburg and it is the village of Borsele with the largest population. Heinkenszand, popularly called 'Eintjeszand', was once a small island off the coast of South Beveland until the beginning of the 14th century when it was first diked. Heinkenszand still consist of a cluster of 18 polders. The village itself was created by development on either side of the polder dike known as the ‘s-Herendijck, which is called the Dorpsstraat (village street) now, the main street. Earlier Heinkenszand had also two outdoor places in the town that gave the town some grandeur; the House Watervliet which was later demolished, and on that spot the estate Landlust came, and finally around the turn of the last century Barbestein made way for the the Roman Catholic Church of St. Blaise.
In August 1944, the month in which I want to start my story, Heinkenszand was still an independent municipality. It consisted of little more than three main streets that met in a T-junction; one extension, Dorpsstraat, the main street where most of the shops and the main buildings were located, the other extension was Stationsweg (Station Road), and perpendicular to these two, Clara's Pad (Clara’s Path) that began where the other two came together. Around these there were some partly unpaved paths. The roads on the outside of the urban areas were mostly located on the many polder dykes surrounding the village.
As in all villages in the “bag”, a few things happened to this polder village after the German invasion. I will sketch a picture of these events.
Heinkenszand during the war
Before Heinkenszand was taken, the population increased with evacuees from the region that was inundated by the Dutch and French armies in the “tail” of South Beveland. This was done to prevent the German arm to invade the former island. The citizens who had space in their homes, made a place for those displaced, mostly refugees from Kruiningen. The families from that village took all that they could carry with them to the west, fleeing the rising sea that had changed the surrounding fields into salty mud flats.
On May 15, 1940, one day before the German army broke through on the Vlake Bridge that joined Zealand with the mainland, Jean Marie Dormic a 33-year-old French soldier died, from his injuries in the emergency hospital in Heinkenszand. He was from the village of Edern, in the Brittany, Finistere (northwestern part of France) and he was a 1st Cannonier-servant (1st Class Gunner) assigned to the 307th Artillery Regiment. In neighboring Lewedorp (a Dutch town in the province of Zeeland about 9 km east of Middelburg) he was hit by a machine gun bullet, probably from a German fighter. After he was found, he was taken to the Public Elementary School in Heinkenszand, which had been converted to a hospital during the mobilization. After his death, Jean was entombed at the General Cemetery. A standing stone made from masonry marked his tomb.
A day after the death of the French soldier, the German forces moved throughout South Beveland, as well Heinkenszand. With the conquest of this village, one must not have any heroic ideas. Reportedly it ran as follows: One day two German soldiers stopped while riding their bikes at the emergency hospital located in the school. One of them climbed on the back of the other to look inside and exclaimed: “Ah, das ist ein Krankenhaus” (“Ah, this is a hospital”) '. Then they walked back to their bikes and left the village. Thus Heinkenszand became incorporated into the Third Reich.
But of course this would not be the only thing that the village would encounter. Zealand was strategically located and indeed an important province. Soon the inhabitants of Heinkenszand not only had to share their homes with evacuees, but also had to quarter the German soldiers. For example, the St. Joseph Roman Catholic School had to serve as a local barracks. Homes and barns were used the same way. Although the 45-year-old mayor of Heinkenszand Aloys Mes wasn’t replaced by an NSB mayor like in other towns, he now had to report to Mr. Peter Dieleman who was appointed as Commissioner of the Province of Zeeland by the German authority.
It soon became clear to the inhabitants of Heinkenszand that they had to learn to tally their numbers. Not only because there were many German soldiers settling into a warm and secure refuge everywhere, they had the most to fear from individuals they knew only too well. That could be sometimes a neighbor, or coworkers they worked together with for years and as a child may have been in the same class. These were the people who put aside their suspicions to the new time to welcome the occupiers. One of the most fanatical National Socialists of Heinkenszand, was the painter Kees Klap who lived in the Dorpsstraat. Kees was a member of the NSB and later became head of the local Landwacht (Home Guard). This organization was a paramilitary group, which was founded in March 1944 from the ranks of the NSB. The members were mostly equipped with shotguns. Initially they wore the black NSB uniform, but later were equipped with a gray field jacket with a grenade insignia on the collar, a gray cap, black pants and black leather boots. These uniforms were to underscore to the country that these guards that began as auxiliary agents were under the command of the SS General Hanns Rauter, Commissioner, leader of the German intelligence service and the police, and not Anton Mussert the NSB leader. A member of the Landwacht earned between fifty and sixty guilders (currency of the Netherlands) a week. It was a tempting salary for wartime. These guards were often used to monitor important buildings or to verify and check identities, because they were raised among the local population and knew the local situation well. Their main task was tracking and arresting those labeled as undesirable or dangerous by the Germans. Just like everywhere in the Netherlands, "undesirable elements" were also removed from society in Heinkenszand. For example, after some anti-German sermons from the pulpit, the pastor of St. Blasius Church was arrested. More arrests followed. The small village had exactly one person of Jewish descent, the wife of a non-Jewish spouse. Her maiden name was Cohen. The investigation proved that she had four Jewish grandparents with a Jewish ancestry. She had to register. The mayor refused to put the letter J (for Jew) in her identity pass. On 24 March 1942, at the town hall in Heinkenszand the order in the form of a letter stated that this lady and her half Jewish children had to leave the province and report in Amsterdam. The mayor pretended he had never received the order. Hen tried as much as possible to counteract their decision, without going too much against the grain. Also, he tried to abolish the order for the woman and her children for wearing the Star of David and filed a proof of approved membership in the Dutch Reformed Church. The authorities were not impressed and found that they still had to report in Amsterdam. What eventually happened to the woman and children, remained unclear, but it is known that they survived the war and that in 1950 with her husband and children departed to North Holland.
The fight progressed and the German forces overran more and more of Europe. There was anon going shortage of metal for the Third Reich’s war industry. On 4 December 1942, Mayor Mes, like all mayors in Zeeland, received a letter from the Commissioner of the Province which said, “that as part of the metal claim”, the church bells of all the churches in seized in Zeeland would be taken. Only clocks with a special historical value might - might - be spared. Dieleman ordered the mayor to inventory the bells of his churches and to send the results to him. The tower clocks according to the inspectors had to remain spared. However, they had previously been inventoried and labeled with a whitewashed letter M. On 5 December, Mayor Mes responded, there were three church bells in town that were available: one in the tower of the Dutch Reformed Church and two in the tower of the Roman Catholic Church. None of these bells were marked by the letter M. The clock of the Dutch Reformed Church was cast in 1649 and mayor Mes argued that it was of great historical value. Mes also believed that this clock, because it was stood in the middle of the village had a greater chance of survival than the other two because it was indispensable for alerting the population. Mes requested the Commissioner spare the clock from meltdown and keep it for an alarm. Dieleman answered with “all clocks without the letter M would be collected anyway”, but that he sincerely hoped some that were exceptional would be saved. On behalf of the metal inspector wrote Dieleman, the mayor was to make sure that the removal of the bells' would happen in an orderly and expeditious manner. In the spring of 1943 came the big day; 200 Zealand bronze bells would be required. On 3 March, the dreaded letter from the attorney of the Art Protection Inspectorate arrived at the office of mayor Mes, it announced that the three bells of Heinkenszand would be removed in a few days by the contractor Meulenberg from the province of Limburg (in the South East of our country), a member of the NSB. The mayor was ordered to paint each of the three bells a white P ten inches high. The people saw the events unfurl with sorrow. After disassembly, all three clocks were taken to a warehouse in Goes and transported from there to Hamburg where they probably were smelted in the Norddeutsche Affenerie in Hamburg or the Zinnewerke Wilhelmsburg. It was a small consolation; the government compensated the owners of these treasures with 75 cents per kilogram. When clocks from other villages were removed by the Limburg contractor, sometimes this warning was written on them; "Who shoots with bells, doesn’t win the war!" meaning the bells would be turned into copper bullets, but because these were removed from churches they wouldn’t be a blessing for the Germans, but a curse.
The Wehrmacht had commanded the Arbeitseinsatz (The Nazi Forced-labor Program), but some of the mayors had subsequently resigned in protest. Dieleman tried to persuade the mayors to come back on their decission, but when Aloys and his colleagues were adamant, this was considered an act of protest. Many mayors were then arrested and interned but Aloys knew the routine and went into hiding. He was succeeded by Deputy Mayor GP Beaufort and later on by the NSB Mayor Christiaan Kole. In retaliation for the disappearance of her husband, Caroline, the wife of Aloys, was locked up for some time in the infamous SS concentration camp Vught. As she sat there, the Germans tried to claim the furniture of the family, but the evacuees from the village of Walcheren removed the furniture from the mayor’s apartment, and managed to avoid this event.
It was common for the population to be called into forced labor not only in industry, but also in the countryside. On the beaches and in the fields they had to plant the so-called Rommel asperges (Rommel asparagus); stakes of wood or metal, preventing the landing of the amphibious vehicles and allied aircraft. These poles were sometimes connected with iron and barbed wire. On 18 April 1944, G.P. Beaufort, the acting mayor of Heinkenszand, wrote the residents of the village: "The Commissioner of this State informs me that the Reich Commissioner for the Province of Zeeland informed him, that the fencing of lands (including the fences on dykes) as of today to have only one thread. Consequently, you must remove all multiple threads, and wind them to reels and deliver them to the municipal mayor before May 1. Additionally, you must submit a declaration of the number of kilograms and the appraised value. Pointed wire and smooth wire should be wound on separate reels."
Because he was a smith, Nico Biezen received a letter saying that his heavy hammer, saw and pliers, were necessary for the production and planting of Rommel asparagus, and were needed. Nico did not want to give away his tools to the occupier, so he simply hid them under a hedge. It was not very obvious that a blacksmith had no heavy tools in his possession, and the tools were found. It was a close call; Nico could have ended up in jail for this. He received, however, a stiff warning. Forced laborers worked often as slowly as possible to the frustration of the Germans while planting the asparagus. Moreover, the doctors gave the men, relief for the slightest pain or falsified their health reports, everything to slow the work of the occupier.
The mayor and the priest tried to resist the authority of the occupying power. Immediately, after the occupation in and around Heinkenszand, another opposition to this new regime arose. Initially, the overt protests were usually on the pain of imprisonment but they nipped it in the bud. There was also a less ostentatious form of protest: refusing to cooperate with the Germans, the severing of family ties with people who helped them, or wearing national symbols on public holidays.
The Group Griep
Also, there were some varied organized groups committed to resistance. In Heinkenszand there was an active resistance group, which had about fourteen members. These men, often with young families, saw the life they had just built, threatened by the power that came marching into their village. Together they decided they had no patience to wait until the Germans would leave. They turned their outrage into action. After the raid, the core members of the local group gradually locked itself on the Zeeland branch of the Order Department (OD). Initially former front fighters founded this movement, and it was created to maintain order, after the liberation of the Netherlands. When it became clear that the Germans made no move to leave, the OD grew into a resistance movement, which many civilians joined. Peter Kloosterman a bicycle dealer and ex-military from Nisse became a member of the resistance in the first hour. In 1940, he was asked by the national staff of the OD to organize the various resistance movements in South Beveland. Kloosterman was appointed district commander of the former island and reliable men gathered around him, especially ex-servicemen. One of them was Ko van 't Westeinde, ex-military and nurseryman from Baarsdorp (a small hamlet near Heinkenszand), and was appointed section head. We will later read more about him. These men sought to form local groups of people around them. It was becoming that every city, village or hamlet had his own resistance group with its own commander. In 1944, there were about 1200 South Beveland members of the OD. The membership of these groups varied by location. Baarsdorp was counted as a hamlet and had 10 members, but the city Goes had around 200. The OD was engaged in all kinds of resistance work as sabotage, falsification of identity cards and the stealing of ration cards. In Zealand, men wanted to depart for redeployment, the OD established an extensive network for hiding them when they wanted to escape provided a hiding place. The OD gathered through their secret radio messages aired by the BBC and Radio Orange from England, and gave this information “Je Maintiendrai” (I will maintain - motto of the Netherlands) to the various clandestine newspapers. The illegal newspapers were often delivered to the people by the OD themselves. By the end of 1944, came the demand for information on the military situation in Zeeland from the Allies. Thus, the collection of military data was an important task. The members of the OD formed an intelligence agency (ID) and by reason of their location took note of important issues such as German military objects, positions and buildings of NSB. The police agent Vroombout from Nisse collected this information and in turn, transferred it to Piet Kloosterman. Eventually they sent the data through a secret transmitter in Goes to Middelburg and on to the North Sea where it was sent, or smuggled to England through Belgium, France or Spain. Once in England, Allied forces incorporated this information was into military topographic maps for the impending invasion.
Also in Heinkenszand an "underground group" was founded. This group was a loose organization whose members sometimes were simultaneously active in, or worked with, other resistance groups. The group was known by the unofficial name “The Group Griep”.
Nico van Biezen
As a veteran, the 31-year-old blacksmith, Nico was asked to become a member of the OD by the Section Head, Ko van ’t Westeinde. This was an offer Nico did not have to think long about. Nico was appointed the local commander and reliable comrades gathered around him. Nico, his 30-year-old wife Suus and his 3-year-old daughter Rietje lived in the forge, on property next to Stationsstraat. This building still stands and now serves as a Chinese restaurant. The farmers who went along with Nico considered him as a skilled blacksmith who made horse riding equipment.
Nico: "Our resistance group began by handing out pamphlets. Mr. Ko van 't Westeinde, Section Head of the OD, one evening brought 1st Lieutenant Scheffers to us. Coincidentally, I knew that man, he was the paymaster of the 7th Field Artillery Regiment, friend of my direct boss during mobilization. He stayed with us in hiding for just about 14 days. I then found a hiding place for him at the home of the widow Mol. Mr. Scheffers arrived there tired but brought some beauty in the life of the widow Mol and Maaike her daughter. Dear good people. The Germans shot his best friend Ko Massee from Goes. Scheffers was a vital man, but the boredom was almost devastating for him. I organized a lot of hiding places for people, also hided them my self in my forge, making them servants in the house and in the workshop. Our house was always open as shelter for refugees. I could take care of everything for these people; food, ration cards, false papers, and if necessary clothing. Also, for a long time, I have been billeting German soldiers and had up to four German blacksmiths in the workshop. At first I was not amused, but on the other hand, it was a good cover for our anti-German behavior. "
Nico asked the doctor Kees Griep to join him in the local underground. (in translation Griep means Influenza, Griep was his actual name). The 49-year-old Kees, the man to whom the group was named, was from Rilland-Bath. Together with his wife Corry Duinker they moved to Heinkenszand in 1922. Kees began a GP practice, in a house that still serves as a doctor's residence located on Clara's Pad. The family had three daughters, Iet, Attie, Nannie and a son, Pim. Not long after his arrival, Kees was appointed the town physician Heinkenszand and received his wages by the municipality. Kees was known as an active and socially conscious man. In addition to his practice, he was involved in all kinds of medical and social initiatives. So he and his wife began work, Corry participated in the local mother and nurse course and he was one of the first doctors to open a clinic for infants in Zealand. Kees was also involved in associations. He was the chairman of the local band Euterpe and president and director of the local art theater. Kees was also a member of the local Voluntary Vigilante, a conservative and royalist paramilitary organization that wanted to protect the Netherlands against undemocratic influences since 1935. By 1940, the Germans disbanded this organization. As mentioned earlier, the Public Elementary School in Heinkenszand functioned as an emergency hospital. As the municipal doctor, Kees got the leadership of the hospital and became hospital director.
After the German invasion, he joined Medisch Contact (Medical Contact), an illegal organization of Dutch doctors who tried to oppose the German medical organization De Artsenkamer (the Chamber of Doctors). Medisch Contact spread through contact relay letters about the measures de Artsenkamer imposed and advised the doctors how to handle them. In this way, they tried in an organized way to influence food distribution, loyalty statements, medical examinations of forced labor, and German measures against Jewish and Dutch measures against forced sterilization work. Because Kees was asked to work for the Centraal Beheer (a Dutch office that monitored the law for ill workers) he became a medical officer that had to check on their patients. Because of this he transferred his practice in the summer of 1942 to Dr. Piet Staverman. Initially, Kees drove a Ford V8 to his home visits, but during the war, the wheels were removed and he put the rest on blocks, so that it could not be recovered. Instead of the Ford, he drove an Italian Fiat with a gas generator owned by his new employer in those years. Kees Griep and his wife hid several evacuees during the occupation. He came to the resistance group that was named after him, with his organization skills, knowledge of the population, the confidence he enjoyed with them and above all he was allowed to travel without restrictions. That was very handy.
Piet van den Dries
Kees Griep suggested headmaster Piet van den Dries to Nico van Biezen to become a member of the group. Piet was a good friend of Kees. Piet was born in Houten in the province Utrecht, but later returned to Zealand where the family originally came from. He and his wife Katrien Schipper whom he married in 1936, had two daughters, Paula and Corrie, and a son, Peter. The father of the 35-year-old Piet had been a head teacher and Piet continued the tradition to lead the St. Joseph School, a Catholic boys' school in Heinkenszand in 1938. Piet had an exceptionally long and lean figure. He was a striking appearance in the village. Reportedly, he was known for his giftedness, but he was notorious for his clumsiness when technique was concerned. A neighbor, whom I spoke to last year, who knew him, still remembers that my grandfather failed countless times for his car license. As was usual at that time, the headmaster lived with his family in a building located next to the school. Piet's house was on the Kerkdreef, a path from the Dorpsstraat that runs to the St. Blasius church. Further on the path is the Lourdes grotto, a miniature replica of the famous French shrine dating from 1912. In the first decades of the twentieth century the veneration of Mary was very in vogue in Catholic Netherlands. After the opening of the cave, there were also hundreds of pilgrims who went along the path by the teacher’s house on Kerkdreef. Behind Piet’s house was the school. The house itself is still there, but the school was later demolished. Once the German troops invaded the village, Piet was forced to vacate the premises so the school could serve as a German barracks. From that moment, he had to not only to deal with the German soldiers in his school, but also with an officer that confiscated the room of little Peter, to sleep and spend his free time in. This created a dangerous situation for Piet. Ko van 't Westeinde, section head, had already asked his cousin Piet to join the OD and to organize a group, together with his friend Kees Griep and village blacksmith Nico. Now he had a German officer in the house and a German company in his school. He had to watch his step.
Because his studies included English at the University of Oxford, Piet was employed as an interpreter between the resistance groups and the airmen that had crashed their bomber or fighter in South Beveland. Besides his job as head of the school Piet also gave private English lessons to people from around the village; especially to the members of the resistance, so they could communicate with aviators and later with the liberators. Like his fellow fighters Piet had a radio, a small crystal receiver, hidden in a matchbox in his office. Piet dared only to listen when his wife Katrien stood guard in the corridor and gave the signal that the coast was clear. Then he waited for the first probing measurements of the fifth symphony of Beethoven - in Morse Code V symbolic for Victory - then sounded the “Radio Oranje Here”, the voice of the battling Netherlands! Piet very much had to watch his words he used during school lessons, as it was generally known that NSB gave their children instructions to watch the master for unwanted comments. According to an internal letter from the NSB on February 7 1942, Piet was classified as a "... outside school: very anti-National Socialist, within school: neutral.” So he was being watched.
The billeting had advantages despite all the tension that it entailed. The German soldiers behind his house soon became acquainted with the family of that kind Herr Haupt Meister. The Germans talked with him so smartly, and sometimes Piet was able to get the necessary information. Since the beginning of the occupation, the German units in Zealand repaid them with some regularity. All the men who could still fight were sent to the front. In July 1944, the 165th Reserve Infantry Division, was followed by a weaker division; the 70th Infantry Division which was formed only a month earlier. This unit consisted of three infantry regiments and the ancillary units. The 70th Infantry Division, led by the 60-year War Veteran Lieutenant General Wilhelm Daser, was also called the Magen Division (Stomach Division), because they mainly consisted of soldiers who for some reason had stomach problems. While in Zealand they had a diet of white bread, which gave them the name Weissbrot division (could only eat white bread). Soldiers of this division came under Heinkenszand and were billeted appropriately in the school behind Peter's house, so the headmaster had personally met many of these men. Some officers, he could even get along with; ordinary guys who were homesick and cried when Allied bombers roared over their heads, on their way to bomb the cities, where their families lived. But others were committed National Socialists, firmly convinced that they would win the war. One such Hitler supporter was the officer billeted in Piet's house. Whenever Katrien was cleaning the room of this soldier, she had the habit to turn around the stern portrait of Hitler. She dared not do this anymore because the officer gave her a scolding after he had caught her.
The children, who were expelled from their schools, were sometimes taught in the church, then in the rectory, in a café or in other emergency rooms that were available. In the four and a half years of the occupation, the classes were moved a total of 19 times. Every time, the teachers had lugged, with the students and a large number of benevolent parents, the books, tables and chairs through the streets to the next location. The school had to deal with different measures imposed. Thus, the children had to get German language classes from the command of the occupying forces. Though Piet himself had studied German and spoke the language fluently, he reluctantly shared this knowledge. He taught his class only a few words and then spent the most time parsing them. When the school inspector of the NSB came along and expressed his displeasure, Piet weathered himself with the argument that you could not learn good German without having to parse the words. There were notes made, but no further reprisals followed. While on the one hand, the German textbooks were ordered, there were plenty of other books rejected and removed from the education package. Everything that slightly reeked of organic patriotism was banned. Although the gymnasium of St. Joseph School had progressed to serve as a stable, and no other rooms were available, the Germans had suddenly required compulsory gymnastics. Most children did not have good shoes, let alone sneakers.
On 1 May 1944, Piet was asked by NSB mayor of Kole, Heinkenszand, for a list to be drawn up of school children that would like to go to Germany on vacation. In the middle and upper mountains, they would enjoy German care with good nutrition. The mayor asked Piet to seek out some teachers to see if they would like to accompany them. It is doubtful he informed anyone of this request and Piet reported no one was interested. Why the Germans wanted to move Dutch children to Germany is not clear, perhaps to teach them National Socialism. Just in case the tide against the Third Reich would return or the bombing would increase, they may have wanted to keep the children as collateral.
As time went by, only a few children would attend Piet’s school classes. In the fertile Zealand, the population was not really hungry, but there were indeed shortages. There was lack of clothing, footwear and soap, so the parents prefer the children stayed home instead of sending them to school in rags and dirty faces. Moreover, there were many fathers away for employment or in hiding, so many children in the country had to work for the food supply.
On the weekend, Piet like to grab the bike, as he did not want to keep busy with school matters nor all those pesky demands of the occupier. Despite the fact that Zealand was a Sperrgebiet ("Prohibited Area"), he managed to pry loose regularly and go cycling to Middelburg and Antwerp with additional equipment. Although, he already spoke fluent German, he told the authorities that he was in Middelburg to study German and also that he was doing family research in Antwerp where his ancestors came from. With the permission of the authorities in his pocket, Piet could, while his bike was not taken away, move as much recorded data on the German positions in South Beveland, Walcheren and Zealandic Flanders. He passed the information on to his nephew Ko van 't Westeinde which gave this in turn to the district commander, Piet Kloosterman. This information helped the Allies to prepare for invasion.
Like everywhere else where danger, oppression and fear of war prevailed, funny events could somewhat mitigate the doom and gloom. Piet had made a lot of funny events especially with his son Peter. So he knew he had better watch his language after he was called out of class. A German company was succeeded by another, and Peter's son came all tidy hand in hand and greeted them with: "Dag rotmof!” (Hello dirty kraut!). Onetime, Peter was with a friend playing in the bike shed in the schoolyard. The loft was used as stables for the Germans, but at that time there was no German or horses in sight. His friend in the village was known as an incorrigible pyromaniac, had once again managed to get a few matches and urged Peter to try them. Peter thought that was exciting, but the match was too short. The result was that a little later the whole loft was ablaze. When they found out who the perpetrators were, his friend was thrown in jail. Peter, however, was in the bath when the police came to get him. With all his power he held fast to the rim and cried that they could not take him anyway, because he was in the nude. Eventually, he did not go to prison, but had to go to bed with a few sore red buttocks.
One afternoon Peter came home with a two bullets he found somewhere. Startled, his mother quickly ordered him to give them to the German cook. He was a reasonable guy who worked in the barn next to the house, which served as a kitchen for the troops. The cook took the bullets and went on with his work. A moment later the boy appears with more bullets on the kitchen steps. "Where do you find those bullets anyway?" Asked the cook worried. Peter shrugged: "Well, in the schoolyard, there are whole boxes full with them!"
Ko en Pier van ’t Westeinde
The aforementioned Ko van 't Westeinde and his brother Pier were sons of a family of seven children. Since 1935, they had the fruit tree nursery 't Westhof inherited from their father, Piertje. He was named Piertje because he was so small in stature (Pier is a local abbreviation of Peter and “-tje” means little). This nursery was in the hamlet Baarsdorp in the municipality of 's-Heer Arendskerke, within the ring dike formed by the Westhofsezandweg, the Grote Dijk and the Kwekerijweg. The brothers Ko and Pier were cousins of Piet van den Dries. The nursery they owned, was founded in 1870 by their grandfather Jacobus van den Dries who was also the grandfather of Peter. This nursery is still located on the Wesdijk in Heinkenszand. A brother and a sister from the family of Jacobus, had married a brother and sister from the family farm Cornelis van 't Westeinde, making these two families closely intertwined. So Maria, the mother of Ko and Piet van 't Westeinde, was a Van den Dries and Cornelia, the mother of Piet van den Dries, was a Van' t Westeinde. Piertje van 't Westeinde, the father of Ko and Pier, had acquired the nursery at the Westdijk of his father Jacobus. At the Westdijk, the children of Piertje and his wife Mary were also born, including Ko and Pier. Piertje did a good business growing yew trees. They flourished well in the Zealand climate. He also had foreign customers and later expanded the nursery from profits. He bought ‘t Westhof (the Western Yard) at the Westhofsezandweg. 't Westhof had two farms. This nursery is where walnuts are now grown and is to this day still run by members of the family van 't Westeinde. Piet van 't Westeinde, a son of Ko, told me that as a boy he was living with his grandfather, uncle and aunt in the other farm' t Westhof. This was done because it was a little cramped with seven children at Ko and Nele. Therefore, Piet commuted back and forth between the two farms of the nursery and occasionally heard on the way, cursing and clamor of the German soldiers from where they were quartered. He told me that when he came home and wanted to share his new German vocabulary on his grandpa, included scheisse (shit) donner wetter (statement which expresses surprise or indignation), his grandpa Piertje didn’t appreciate it and gave him a smack on the ears.
The 40-year-old Ko was married to Nele Rijk who was always dressed in the traditional style of the Catholic women of South Beveland. Ko and Nele lived on the farm in Baarsdorp and got six sons: Piet, Martien, Kees, Bas, Wim and Jan, and a girl, Marietje. When mobilization began, Ko was also called up for military service. He worked as an aide (motorordonnans (a military motorcyclist, who maintains messaging) in Meerkerk (a village in the Dutch province of South Holland). After the German invasion a platoon of German soldiers was billeted in a barn on his farm. Ko was on of the first members of the OD. He was appointed by district commander Pete Kloostermane to be the section head of the OD, because of his military experience and the opportunities he had on his farm. His district consisted of Nisse, 's-Heer Arendskerke, the ‘s-Heer Abtskerke and part of Goes. From early 1944, the former deputy mayor of Goes, A. de Roo was one of the closest associates of Peter Kloosterman and also his successor. Ko was also a local commander of the hamlet Baarsdorp and managed a group of about ten men. When the forced employment came, Ko quickly started placing and hiding people who fled this law as servants in his nursery.
Ko was not a section head of Heinkenszand. He was initially only indirectly involved in the Group Griep in Heinkenszand, but later he would closely cooperate with them. In 1944 when the Allies asked the opposition groups to create warring partisan groups, Ko in the summer of 1944 arranged a dropping of firearms and ammunition in his country by an Allied plane. At night, he and his staff were waiting by the burning barrels that they had put on the edges of the pasture. The plan was canceled at the last moment, because it was feared that the quartered Germans would notice. Thus the shortage of weapons remained a problem for the newly created partisan groups.
The 36-year-old brother of Ko, Pier 't Westeinde who actually was called Pieter, was not married when this story took place. He lived with his father Piertje, his sister Cornelia and his nephew Piet on the other farm of the estate, in Baarsdorp. During the occupation, he helped his older brother by spreading false identity cards, food stamps and finding different hiding places for refugees.
There were other men who were affiliated with the resistance from Heinkenszand. Accountant Kees Paauwe, reportedly a man with a remarkably loud voice, was a good friend of Nico Biezen. Kees could speak good German and often negotiated many affairs with the Germans. He also tried to pry information from them. Kees Franse, the local community beadle (a sort of jack-of-all trades in the service of the community), was also employed at the Air Protection Department. He is mentioned as an important source of information. Moreover, by his position, he could easily steal the necessary forms and stamps from the town. Also, the milkman Geschiere with his knowledge of the villagers and the environment was an important source of information. Around the core group also hung a group of boys aged about 23. If anything had to be stolen, such as ration cards, they were sometimes used. If those coupons were transported in bags to the Distributor, the boys came into action and they attacked the messenger. They also went regularly to fight in the village of Wolphaartsdijk, because there was a large group of boys there, which were pro-German.
The sabotage actions of the Group Griep happened initially on the night when they burned down the threshing machines that were only be used for supplying the Germans. In response the German authority made two random citizens guard the threshers every night. If there was a sabotage action like a machine fire, then the next day those two people were shot. Because the group did not want the death of their fellow villagers on their conscience, the members of the group decided on less prominent acts of resistance to strike and sabotage.
1: Mayor dr. mr. A.J.J.M. Mes from Middelburg, was from July 1926 to January 1944 Mayor of Heinkenszand. He was from July 1935 to September 1941 a member of the Provincial Council of Zeeland and from June 1937 to June 1946 member of the House of Representatives. He also was from July 1936 to September 1939 Mayor of Ovezande.
2: The task of these weapons inspector was the incorporation of the Wehrmacht orders in industry and promoting smooth export.
3: As of this writing, there is in this building on the main street one clothing store located.
4: The Rommel asparagus were named after the German General-Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, also called the desert fox for his campaigns in North Africa. Rommel was from November 1943 responsible for the defense of the Atlantic Wall. He found in his office an inefficient organization. From the moment he took command, he led the pace and he decreed that the beaches were filled with various barriers including put his name "asparagus". After the failed attempt on Hitler Rommel was suspected to be involved. On October 14, 1944 he was forced to commit suicide by means of a poison pill.
5: A wooden construction in which a farmer's horse was being put, so the blacksmith could work on its hoofs.
6: A response from the Circle Leader Circle 48 on the Group Leader Goes.
7: Because the current month names didn’t sound enough like Dutch, the nationalistic NSB used alternate month names. The Sprokkelmaand (the month of gathering dry wood) stood for February.
Pictures from Noodsein Boven Zeeland
(photo 005) The letter Piet van den Dries received about the children's broadcast.
Suus and her husband Sergeant Nico van Biezen in his uniform of the Horse Artillery Corps.
A map of Heinkenszand 1942, which clearly shows that the village was created by reclamation.
Rechts, a town in Heinkenszand. (Mrs. Leu of Swaluw-Faes)
The homes of members of the Groep Griep in Heinkenszand.
The mayor of Heinkenszand Dr. Mr. . Aloys Mes. (Catholic Documentation Centre)
A clock stolen from Kortgene, on which a white P is painted. (Zeeland Library / Image Database Zealand)
The family of Kees Griep July 1945.
(photos 014, 015 and 016)
From left to right: Nico van Biezen, Kees Griep en Piet van den Dries.
(photos 017, 018, 019)
From left to right: Ko van 't Westeinde, his brother Pier and a catalog from their nursery.
The family of Ko van 't Westeinde.
(photo 021) The R.K. St. Joseph School headmaster left the home of Piet van den Dries and left the school.
The Kerkdreef in the foreground of the old gate of the castle and at the end of the St. Blasius Church.
A copy of the letter from the NSB leader in Goes inquiring about the political affinities of Piet van den Dries.
"word" is having trouble opening the pictures associated with each chapter.
Have several I need to add to chapter 2 before I post any more chapters.
The Eagle is flying
Initially the United States kept aloof during the Second World War, though they gave the Brits the necessary material and financial support. The American neutrality would not last long. In eastern Asia, the Japanese empire began to stir. Japan was an industrialized country that had the highest standard of living in all of Asia. But the Achilles heel of the Empire was the lack of its own resources for the growing prosperity to continue. There were two ways to get their hands on it; through trade or occupation. Around the turn of the century, the Empire chose for the latter option and succeeded after two wars with China and Russia, to occupy Taiwan, Korea and Manchuria. But Japan wanted more. It decided to conquer the entire Pacific region, including Hawaii that belonged to the U.S. On 7 December 1941, the Hawaiian port of Pearl Harbor was rocked by a surprise attack by Japanese warplanes. This day would go down in the American history books as “The Day of Infamy”. A day after the attack, the President of the United States and Congress declared war. On 9 December 1941, after the Japanese invaded Bangkok, Hong Kong and the Philippines, the United Kingdom had declared war on the Empire. Two days later, the axis powers of Japan, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, making the struggle, which was initially limited to Europe and North Africa, to be a world war.
The 8th Air Force
After the end of 1941, the U.S. Army, had the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), under the command of General Carl A. Spaatz, divided between two fronts; the war in the Pacific region against Japan and the war in Europe against Germany and Italy. One of the 16 Numbered Air Forces of the Air Force was 8th Air Force, “The Mighty Eighth” as the unit was called. In January 1942, the 8th Air Force was specially set up to send bombers and fighters from the British Isles to conduct air attacks in Germany, France and the Low Countries.
Before the USAAF intervened during the war, the British Royal Air Force (RAF), Bomber Command’s, bombardment division frequently aerial bombed the mainland of Europe. They particularly targeted the German industrial cities. Under the leadership of Air Chief Marshal Arthur Harris, Bomber Command used the carpet bombing strategy designed to systematically destroy every part of a selected area of land. Because the less agile British bombers were very vulnerable to attack from the German fighters the missions were usually done at night. The bombing in the dark of the strategic targets was a method that took a lot of training and preparation and often failed because of an incorrect coordination or weather conditions. The Americans saw no benefit in this strategy, which unnecessary civilian casualties occurred. So they brought another tactic into the struggle; it seemed much more efficient to destroy the small but essential cogs of the German war machine from high altitude during the day, so that they could avoid crashing. Their primary goals were factories making parts for submarines, aircraft and other military equipment, but also oil refineries, marshalling yards, harbors and airports. These layers of infrastructure are often close to cities, but to reduce the number of civilian casualties, the Americans were planning their missions with precision bombing. For greater efficiency, they flew these missions in large formations, so that despite the large losses by enemy artillery, the missions could still succeed. To protect the bombers, the aircraft were equipped with quite a few turrets, with edge machine guns. The B-17 Flying Fortress bomber was such, and also the later B-24 Liberator. The important difference between the British Bomber Command and the bombers of the Americans was daytime flying.
From September 1943, the 8th Air Force was led by Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker who, despite heavy casualties and lost bombers, clung to bomb missions without escort fighters. So many losses were unsustainable for the 8th Air Force. In January, Eaker was succeeded by Lieutenant General Jimmie H. Doolittle who immediately introduced a different strategy. To protect themselves from attacks by German fighters were now formations escorted by the faster and more agile fighters, mainly P-51 Mustangs. They had to fight the enemy fighters and flak. Although Bomber Command and the 8th Air Force did not have much confidence in each other's strategies, they joined hands together and complemented each other in an unparalleled air offensive against the German Reich. While Bomber Command attacked cities at night, the 8th Air Force bombed the war industry during the day. The Germans felt that they were in constant danger, day and night. Bomber Command was demoralizing the German people, while the 8th Air Force was destroying the German war industry. Among these attacks important mistakes were made. On 22 February 1944, Nijmegen and Enschede (cities in the east Netherlands, near the German border) were mistakenly bombed by U.S. aircraft. It was thought that they were German industrial cities. Despite these painful incidents, the combined strategy ultimately played a major role in the liberation of Europe.
392nd Bombardment Group
In the 8th Air Force there were three active divisions that flew long-distance bombers. They also had P-51 Mustang fighters to escort them for these missions. The first and third division used the B-17 Flying Fortresses for the bombing, while in the second division flew B-24 Liberators.
Like the other two divisions, the 2nd Bombardment Division, was divided into several Combat Bombardment Wings, which in turn were divided into Bombardment Groups. One of these groups was the 392nd Bombardment Group (Heavy). The term Heavy indicated that the bombers flying were either the Flying Fortresses or Liberators. The group was first led by Colonel Irvine A. Rendle, Commander, and bore the nickname, “The Crusaders”. The pilots of this group wore a logo on their jackets, which depicted a crusader on a falling bomb. For clarity, I will now also call this group the Crusaders.
The Crusaders flew only the B-24H Liberator and were active from September 1943 to April 1945. They were part of the 14th Combat Bombardment Wing, and were stationed at Wending Air Base, station 118, in the eastern English county of Norfolk. The Crusaders besides the ground staff, consisted of four Bombardment Squadrons (BS); 576th BS, 577th BS, 578th BS and 579th BS. Each squadron had average 12 Liberators at their disposal. Because there were many aircraft lost and had to be replenished, this number would vary.
(Numbered Air Forces)
1st Air Force
Northeast United States 5th Air Force
Southwest Pacific 9th Air Force
North Africa Europe 13th Air Force
2nd Air Force
Northwest United States 6th Air Force
South America 10th Air Force
Burma 14th Air Force
3rd Air Force
Southeast United States 7th Air Force
Central Pacific 11th Air Force
Alaska 16th Air Force
4th Air force
Southwest United States 8th Air Force
Europe 12th Air Force
Mediterranean 20th Air Force
8th Air Force
1st Bombardment Division
B-17 Flying Fortress
Brampton UK 2nd Bombardment Division
Norwich UK 3rd Bombardment Division
B-17 Flying Fortress
2nd Bombardment Division
(Combat Bombardment Wings)
Bombardment Wing 20th Combat
Bombardment Wing 96th Combat
Bombardment Wing 95th Combat
Bombardment Wing 65th Fighter
14th Combat Bombardment Wing
44th Bombardment Group
Shipham Air Base 491st Bombardment Group
North Pickenham Air Base
392nd Bombardment Group
Wendling Air Base 492nd Bombardment Group
Harrington Air Base
392nd Bombardment Group
576th Bombardment Squadron 578th Bombardment Squadron
577th Bombardment Squadron 579th Bombardment Squadron
The B-24H Liberator
The four-engine Liberator, also called the Lib, which the Crusaders flew, was developed in 1939 by the American Consolidated Aircraft Corporation, commissioned by the U.S. Army. It was the Flying Fortress; range of about 1700 miles, top speed of about 300mi per hour, but also had a payload of 3,600 pounds of bombs. Consolidated incorporated many innovations, including a three-point landing system, four powerful Pratt & Whitney R-1830 turbo supercharged radial engines of 1200 hp and a wingspan of 110ft, while the length of the device was 64ft. It was equipped with a revolutionary wing shape, called the Davis Wing (a narrow-chord wing that has comparatively low drag and a stable center of pressure and develops lift at relatively small angles of attack) making it more fuel efficient. The new design was a success and also other plants such as Douglas and Ford took the model in production. Although the fame of the Liberator was overshadowed by that of the Flying Fortress, more Liberators rolled off the production line than any other aircraft during the war. During the short career of the unit as much as 180,482 were made. The first aircraft of that type had seven guns on board, but the first mass-produced Liberator, the B-24D in early 1943 made its appearance, was extended for another three, bringing the number to ten M2 Browning .50 caliber machine guns on board the aircraft. This B-24D did not have a nimble nose dome, which was only introduced in the B-24H version. Many thought the definitive Liberator was the B-24H. Ford at Willow Run Assembly Plant in Michigan developed this version. The plane was about 10 inches longer than its predecessor and had not only a nimble nose dome, but also plexiglass windows with a twist mechanism on the side. There were many improvements, such as the sight of the bombardier, the autopilot and fuel flow system.
To defend themselves against the German fighters and against flak, which was an abbreviation of FlugabwehrKanone (antiaircraft gun), the B-24H was equipped with four turrets, each with two machine guns. Flak a common name for antiaircraft fire was used by friend and or foe. The aforementioned nose dome defended the front, the back and the tail dome top or dorsal turret defended the unit to attack from above. To protect the bottom of the bomber B-24H had a retractable, pivoting dome belly, known as the Sperry ball turret, named after the company that built it. The turret mounted two Browning 50 caliber machine guns that would fire 750 to 850 bullets in a minute that’s about 14 bullets a second. To get in the turret the gunner would manually crank the guns straight down after take off. He could then open the hatch and would climb in. Once inside he could turn on the turrets electrical and hydraulic power. The gunner would lie inside the turret in a fetal position and would sight between his legs through the circular glass. The turret was powered by an electric motor that driven by two hydraulic units. One for azimuth (sideways) and one for elevation (up and down). The gunner had two handles to control the turret with. On top of these handles were the buttons for firing the guns.
Liberators eventually removed the abdomen domes because as the war continued, they were rarely faced with enemy fighters. For missions where heavy gun battles with enemy fighters were expected, they were reassembled. When there was a belly turret, a tenth man (gunner) was added. This movable metal ball under the bomber provided the necessary protection for the bottom of the unit, but it also had many disadvantages. For the crew, it was undoubtedly the one of the most vulnerable places. The bulging dome was a target from ground by Flak, or in the air by fighters. Due to the tight space, the gunner could not bring into his area a parachute, so if the plane was hit and every second counted, it took a great effort to climb out of the dome. Then, he had to put on his parachute and connect his harness hooks, which were precious seconds in an emergency. Even if the crew suddenly had a faulty landing gear and had to make a belly landing, you could not sit in the belly turret. This was also health hazard because sometimes the oxygen system would falter. Sometimes it happened on landing that the crew found the belly turret gunner who was fairly isolated from the rest of the team, had suffocated from lack of oxygen. These were not the only reasons why the dome was dismantled. The removal of the metal sphere reduced air resistance (drag), reduced weight, increased payload and made sure it was fuel efficient. However, the disassembly of the abdominal dome, meant was that the bottom of the aircraft was unprotected from attacking fighters and Flak.
There were many mechanical improvements made to the B24-H, and the aircraft had a greater payload. However, the airmen in a Liberator could not expect a luxury or even safe flight. Some of the nicknames were not for nothing such as “The Flying Boxcar.” The interior seemed designed only to handle all necessary equipment to provide an efficient place. Only the pilot and co-pilot had a safety belt. Most pilots had a love and hate relationship with the rather crude-looking handset. Despite the aerodynamic wings, they found a cantankerous, heavy and unwieldy aircraft that was difficult to control. It required much muscle power to fly a Liberator. There was no power steering. Another dreaded nickname was “The Flying Coffin”. The Flying Coffin, a name that the aircraft had for two reasons; the first, because the pathway to and from the back was so narrow you could only move through it sideways. This also meant that it was not possible to hook your parachute harness through this space to jump. The second reason was because the only official exit was a hatch in the back of the aircraft. For a quicker place to enter and exit, the crews used the bomb hatch. The members of the crew, who were positioned in the front, often climbed aboard through the narrow hole of the steering wheel. This required agility, but it put them in the place where they wanted to be.
As mentioned, a flight in a Liberator was not fun. The wind came inside through the wheel openings and the bomb bay doors, which did not have weather stripping. It was very cold in the plane at high altitude. The later B24-H had plexiglass windows on the side gunner locations. They had a rotary element, which they could shoot from. In the earlier versions of the aircraft, the gunners shot their guns through two open windows. They were exposed to wind at hurricane strength during firing. At an altitude of 8000 meters (approximately 26,246 feet) the temperature ranged from 15 to 55 degrees below zero. Only the cockpit was equipped with heaters, but they were mostly defective or had been removed, because it caused too much danger exposed so close to the fuel lines. In order to stay warm, the crew wore electrically heated suits, gloves and shoes, forerunners of the electric blanket. Because these often stopped functioning, it was recommended to always wear heavy duty flying suits and boots to prevent freezing. Sometimes the crew took their clumsy mittens for granted but they kept their hands from freezing on metal parts, which was a real danger.
Not only was it very cold, the air pressure in the aircraft was not regulated. At high altitude the oxygen for the crew had to be invoked through their masks, connected to oxygen tanks. For takeoff, everything was carefully checked but often a faltered oxygen supply line determined whether one had to switch to emergency portable bottles, making the aircraft fly lower.
There was no absence of noise on board. A tremendous amount of noise caused by four propellers made its way into the cabin. The headphones and the helmet flaps could not reduce the intensity of the noise. However there was a side "benefit". The crew was not easily scared by enemy shelling that was heard in the middle of a deployment. Sometimes after take off there was a smell of fuel and often accidents with gas leaks happened. Therefore, the troops could not smoke during the mission until the gas smell was completely gone.
In the Pacific region, the Liberator was often used as a cargo aircraft. It was equipped with radar, a successful weapon that was used in the fight against enemy submarines. In the European struggle, the plane was mainly used for bombing strategic targets, often deep in enemy territory. Although heavily armed bombers were flying in formations and were supported by fighters, it was a hazardous undertaking. Initially they had to fly 25 missions before they could return back home. This was later raised to 30. During the first years of the war, the fighters presented a great danger. The dreaded Messerschmitt Bf 109 (often called Me 109) and the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 (single-seat, single-engine fighter) were much more agile and could attack heavy bombers pretty easily. A great danger was certainly the effective German flak from ground fire to the bombers. Because the American bombers flew mostly in daytime, immense spotlights were not needed to hit the American formations with Flak. What can not be underestimated, is many accidents were caused by mechanical failures or human error. Often this made for dangerous situations, often with fatal consequences.
Yet, despite these dangers, the nine-or ten-man crews were men who volunteered for service. Everyone had his own reasons. At that time, American men between 18 and 46 years were drafted, which almost always resulted in placement within the Army. To avoid this, many men opted to voluntarily register with the more appealing Air Force. Others seized the opportunity to escape poverty and unemployment, and the economic recession. Many second-generation immigrants, Poles, Czechs, Frenchmen, Italians, etc. wanted to fight alongside their old homeland to free it from the Germans. There were also those simply looking for adventure or who initially had a childhood dream to fly an airplane.
1: The Consolidated Aircraft Company was founded in 1923 and was known for the development of seaplanes like the PBY Catalina and later the B-24 which many elements of the Catalina were applied.
I realize this may be a boring read for many of you but hopefully a few of you might find it an enjoyable read.
Just wanted to get my grandfathers story out there after so many years of not knowing what he and many other brave men of the 392nd BG / 579th BS went thru that day.
In April 1944, ten young men gathered at the Pueblo Army Air Base in Colorado. On this air base men were trained to operate various positions on the heavy bombers like the B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 Liberator and later that year the advanced B-29 Superfortress. At the training camp just east of Pueblo, CO in the dry, dusty desert, the teams were composed of heavy bombers crews. This was where the men first met their peers, and in two and a half months would face the horrors of war. In this final phase of their training, they learned to work together and to trust each other. Here they were forged together into a cohesive team, a brotherhood of specialists whose cumbersome grumpy monster, that “Flying Boxcar” they had to learn to tame. Each member had his own specific training behind him, and was prepared for his position in the Liberator. After two and a half months of training together in Pueblo, nine of the ten men of the crew transferred to the Topeka Army Air Field in Kansas. They were again medically tested and had to wait for their embarkation to Europe. From here they were put on a train and sent to Camp Shanks, 30 miles up the Hudson River from New York City. This camp was called “Last Stop USA” for in the harbor the troop ship RMS Queen Elizabeth was waiting. At that time it was the largest passenger ship in the world to the large mass of military troops crossing the ocean. The overcrowded trains now ran empty and the men, with their heavy duffel bags on one shoulder, were departing to distant Europe.
The journey on the crowded ship lasted five days, after which the ship passed through the Firth of Clyde and entered the port of Greenock, on the south bank of the River Clyde in Scotland. Around June 27, the troops of the ship reached land in smaller boats, after which they were put back on the train to be transported elsewhere. The train in which the Liberator crew sat went toward the southeast and came after a day of traveling to a small station called Wendling Station. It was a train station they would often go to if they were given leave and wanted to visit a nearby city.
The men were brought by truck to the neighboring airbase. Wendling Air Base, near the village of Beeston, was the most northern base of the 8th Air Force. It was home of the 392nd Bomb Group also known as the “Crusaders”. The men were housed in the 579th Bombardment Squadron led by Major Myron H. Keilman, Squadron Commander. While putting all their gear on their bed in the designated Nissen Huts (a variant of the Quonset hut), the crew realized only too well that there was a 70 percent chance that the previous person that had slept in this bed, had not returned from a mission. They thought but not too much about the fact that they also had only 30 percent chance to see all 30 missions and to get through them unscathed.
The fresh crew did not immediately participate in the missions. In the beginning, the American losses were so high that new crews could not be deployed quickly enough. But now because of the aircraft losses, there was less of a need for crews. With all these new disclosures, they did not even know what they were supposed to do. The crew had just arrived in Wendling, and for first few days engaged in training where they learned theory of flight and participated in some practice flights. In the classroom, their flying knowledge further tightened up and they received lessons in survival in a hostile territory after a crash. Often experts were present for these lessons. These were ordinary guys just like them, who were lucky enough to have escaped captivity and, often were helped by a local resistance group, because they had landed behind the enemies line. These men shared their experiences with the brand new aviators, after which they were brought to a room, which served as a makeshift photography studio. Here a photo of them in civilian clothes was taken, a picture they had to carry at all times, so if the need arose, any resistance group could fabricate a fake ID for them. The soldiers were forbidden to own civilian clothes, perhaps to make desertion more difficult. However, the studio was filled with shirts, jackets and ties that the men could borrow for this occasion. After the lectures, the test flights followed which again the finishing touches were put on while they flew the rustic English countryside. They did shooting in the air and further trained in dropping the blue painted concrete practice bombs. The airbase was in a rural area with lots of farmland and small hamlets. Initially it was designed as an air base for the British Bomber Command, but RAF base Wendling was in 1942 transferred to the 8th Air Force. Once the base was in American hands, the activities stirred the rustic surroundings. The residents had hundreds of American men to visit on their rickety bicycles. Then there were the vendors and especially the nearby Ploughshare Pub that the Americans gave additional income. On the base there were about 2800 men encamped, mainly housed in the so-called Nissen Huts. This simple, semi-circular hut of corrugated steel was cheap and easy to assemble. But they were also cold and windy and could only be heated by a single coal stove in the middle of the hut. Several of those huts shared a building with a latrine, showers and sinks. The officers and NCOs were sleeping in separate huts. Often the Officers were four, and the NCOs six of the 10-man crew. Further infrastructure on the base included an airport taxiway with a maintenance hanger, several offices, several warehouses for ammunition, various shelters, a hospital and a water tower.
The information on Gerow's crew I thank largely to their families and what they were able to tell me or, in Jim Gerow's case, what he told me himself. For example, I know that Joseph Sulkowski is still known by the name of Joseph by Zealanders. In this book I have used the abbreviated names or nicknames the crew used themselves. So I’ll use Joe instead of Joseph. I found these abbreviations on the back of a picture of Loyce Ely. According to many survivors those abbreviations were used at home.
The 23-year old 2/Lt (second lieutenant) James (Jim) A. Gerow was from Buffalo, New York. He was the pilot for the crew and, as is usually the case, also the captain. The crews were usually named after their pilot, by the designation of “Gerow’s crew” or the crew of Gerow. So I will also use this terminology for his team. Jim, as he was usually called, was recruited on July 29, 1942 in Buffalo. When Jim was in training to be a pilot, training had four phases:
In the first nine weeks of the preflight training at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, one was subjected to numerous tests, both physically and mentally. The cadets were taught mathematics, theory of flight, ground operations, meteorology, navigation, aircraft recognition, physics and sending and receiving Morse code. But they also received physical training like running, marching, weapon use and the like. You could become a pilot if you managed to complete this training, if you did not succeed, you could always be a navigator.
Jim's pilot training actually began during the Primary Training at Hicks Field in Texas. Here he received his first flying lessons, usually in a PT-19 Cornell, a single-engine training aircraft. This training also lasted nine weeks. This was followed by the nine weeks of Basic Training where he trained with the BT-13 Valliant: a single-engine training aircraft. Jim was hereinafter in Advanced Training at Columbus Air Force Base in Columbus, Mississippi. He flew in similar devices in which two flights he flew both the; the AT-17 Bobcat and UC-78 Bamboo Bomber; two twin-engine training aircraft. In December 1943, Jim received his wings and was promoted to second lieutenant. In the same month Jim married his fiancée Delphine. At Hill Air Force Base in Salt Lake City, Utah, he trained with the B-24 Liberator; the four-engine bomber that he was going to fly in Europe.
In his last Phase of Training, Jim was at Pueblo Army Air Base in Colorado, where he met his basic crew. The crew was composed of various specialists. This training lasted two and half months.
Jim's co-pilot was 25 year old 2/Lt Frederick (Fred) J. Vallarelli from Rye, New York. Fred was recruited on December 14, 1942 in New York City. Like Jim, he had successfully completed all the above phases of pilot training.
As the pilot and co-pilot the navigator was a second lieutenant. The 21-year-old David (Dave) P. Grandon was from La Salle, Illinois, and had three sisters. Dave got his degree at La Salle-Peru High School and then studied at the LaSalle-Peru-Oglesby (LPO) Junior College. He came from a family of newspaper publishers. Preston Grandon, Dave's father, was the editor of a local newspaper, The Daily Post-Tribune in La Salle, where Dave worked in 1942 as an apprentice printer. The following year, on February 28, 1943, he was recruited in Chicago, and then had to wait until November 28 to take the oath at Soldier Field in Chicago. On January 30, 1943, his service began. He was sent to Miami Beach, Florida for his training. In March, Dave moved to the Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, for an aviator course he finished in May. After two months on the air base in Nashville, Tennessee, he went to Selman Field in Monroe, Louisiana, where he was trained as a navigator-bombardier. Late September 1943, he went to Buckingham Field in Fort Myers, Florida, for gunner training course and he completed his training by the end of November. On March 18, he returned to Monroe, LA from Florida where he received his Wings and he was promoted to second lieutenant. After that, he was sent to Pueblo, Colorado, where the crew was assembled.
The bombardier was 23 year old 2/Lt Joseph (Joe) T. Sulkowski from Everson, Pennsylvania. Joe's parents were Polish immigrants who had eight children, of which he was the oldest. In 1937, at the center of the Great Depression, Joe studied at the high school in Scottdale, PA close to Everson. There was a lack of jobs and after graduation he found no permanent employment. So he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a government program for unemployed youth to carry out public tasks. The CCC was a semi-military organization, in which the men wore, uniforms, slept in barracks and worked six days a week. They got $ 30 a month, of which $ 25 was sent directly to their families. This helped to ease a bit the poverty caused by the Great Depression. After the CCC, Joe worked from 1939 in the R E Uptegraff Mfg CO transformer factory in Scottdale, where his father and his brother Vincent also worked. Although he was trained as a welder, he was hired for winding transformer coils and later as a mechanic. The German invasion of Poland in September 1939, made a great impression on his family, who had many direct relatives and friends living there. From the Blitzkrieg to the attack on Pearl Harbor, there were only dribs and drabs in the news about the situation in Europe. The family was very worried. Because the R E Uptegraff Mfg CO was a major supplier for the U.S. Army, his brother and Joe were exempt from military service. Yet arose within the family heated discussions between the children who wanted to join the Army, and the parents who were concerned about the dangers that would entail. But the children persisted. On December 3, 1942, Joe joined the Air Force, his sister Cecilia joined in February 1943 as a nurse in the Army Nurse Corps, his 17 year old brother Vincent was allowed to take his High School exam earlier, so in March 1944, he was assigned to the Navy where he was working as an electrician on a minesweeper. By the end of the war, Joe's brother Walt followed as a cadet in training in the Air Force, but was rejected before he could finish his training.
Joe's own recruitment took place in Pittsburgh. He later wrote: "One day I had a double date, together with a friend. We went to a movie in town with our girls. When we came back from the cinema, my friend asked me, "Hey, Joe, the girls went shopping, what are we going to do?" I said: "No idea, do you know of something to do?" He said: 'I thought some tests were going on in town, you coming? "
It was here an Army General Classification Test (AGCT) was given. Using this test, the Air Force measured one's intelligence and talent on the basis of 150 multiple-choice questions that had to be answered within 40 minutes. The joke was Joe took the test and scored well above average, while his friend failed. The Air Force recruitment officer was impressed and offered Joe an opportunity to go an Officer Training School (OTS), an offer that Joe tackled with both hands. He wished with all his might it would be bombardier school. It seemed the best way to take the country his family had come from back from the Germans. He had command of the entire aircraft as a bombardier when he was dropping his bombs. In the event there were dead or wounded on board, the bombardier, had another task to take over of any gunner positions or even the job of the navigator. The training for bombardier was therefore intense and lasted even longer than that of a pilot. Because the USAAF was faced with a shortage of pilots due to the many aircraft losses in Europe, Joe was asked several times during his basic training to fulfill that job. But he stood his ground and successfully went through the training for bombardier.
The radio operator, the 23-year-old S/Sgt (Staff Sergeant) Morton Baker was from Middlesex, Massachusetts. He came from a Jewish family. On May 12, 1942, Morton was recruited in Boston. He went on to the Radio Operator School at Scott Field in Illinois. There he trained as radio operator and went on to the Flexible Gunnery School at Tyndall Field to be trained as a gunner. His wife Mildred Baker resided in Brooklyn, NY while Morton served with Jim Gerow’s crew.
T/Sgt (Technical Sergeant) Eugene (Gene) J. Kieras was 20 years old and the youngest member of the crew. He came like Dave Grandon from La Salle, Illinois. He was both a flight engineer and a top turret gunner. Gene's father was a veteran of the First World War, of whom four sons served in the army. On April 9, 1943, Gene was recruited in Peoria, Illinois. In June, he was sent to the Aviation Mechanics School at Keesler Field in Mississippi and promoted to Private First Class. On October 31, he received his diploma from the B-24 Liberator Bomber Mechanics School. Because he was also a top turret gunner, he trained as a gunner at the Flexible Gunnery School at Tyndall Field. On January 18, 1944, after completing this training he received his Wings and was promoted to the rank of corporal. After a few days of leave, he departed for Pueblo, Colorado, where he became a member of the crew of Jim Gerow. It was here he was promoted to Staff Sergeant and soon after to Technical Sergeant.
The 29-year-old S/Sgt Loyce E. Ely was from Corcoran, California, and was the left waist gunner for the crew. He was the only one from the West Coast of the United States. Loyce grew up in Quanah, Texas (192 miles northwest of Fort Worth, and a few miles from the Oklahoma-Texas state line) on the farm of his parents who had four sons and four daughters. Loyce’s sister died at age six from diphtheria. Due to the lack of money during the great depression, Loyce went right to work after school on the farm, but also took all the jobs that were available. In 1935, when he was 20 years old, the family moved to Corcoran where both Loyce and his father found themselves in the Works Project Administration (WPA), an initiative established in 1935 by President Roosevelt. It was created for the unemployed to get a job help. Loyce got a permanent job at the J.G. Boss Well Company, a large cotton construction company, where he worked as a truck driver and mechanic. On October 19, 1942, Loyce was recruited in Fresno, California, was sent to Laredo Air Base in Texas and Tyndall Field in Florida and was trained as a gunner. His brother Gene ended up in the Army. He worked in the military police in Europe.
S/Sgt Benjamin (Ben) E. Brink was the 24-year-old gunman right flank (right waist gunner) and came from the mountainous region of Irvona, Pennsylvania. He was a son of Samuel and Edith Brink. Ben's father worked a few years in a clay mine, but then worked as a fireman on the railways. Ben had a younger brother, Robert, who was in the army, and three younger sisters: Grace, Norma and Evelyn. Immediately after he attained his high school diploma Ben was recruited in Clearfield, Pennsylvania. Two years later, he began his training as a gunner.
S/Sgt Norman B. Hebert was the 25-year-old tail gunner who manned the rear turret. He was from Woonsocket, Rhode Island and the son of J. Arthur Hebert and Laura Duval Hebert. Because of his French ancestry, he was called “Frenchy” by his colleagues. Because this nickname is closest to the situation of the story, I will also identify him as Frenchy. He had six brothers and two sisters. Two of his brothers also went into military service during WWII; and two more during Korea. Edgar was a flight instructor in the Air Force and saw action in North Africa and Paul was in the Navy on board the destroyer Gherardi. On the morning of D-Day, the Gherardi became part of Admiral Moon's Assault Force "U" for Utah Beach. As a young boy Normand caused a lot of angst for his parents with all his exploits. He had been in the Army since 1935 enlisting when he was seventeen. He was anxious to join the fight and on December 10, 1941, three days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was at Fort Benning, Georgia, enrolled in the Air Force. He then received his training as a gunner at Tyndall Field, Florida. During his training in Pueblo, Colorado, he joined the crew led by Jim Gerow. He married Juanita J. Dudley whom he had met in Pueblo, CO.
Although there is a group photo from Pueblo, a tenth member of the crew can be seen, the ball turret gunner S/Sgt Stanley E. Davidoski. However, he was not a member of the crew. In 1944, belly gunners were only sporadically used. He probably ended up in another gunner position with a different crew.
The Baptism By Fire
I’ve looked it up: the best translation for the province Zeeland is just Zeeland and not Zealand. Zealand is the largest island of Danmark (Sjælland). It’s a bit complicated because New Zealand got its name from the Dutch Zeeland and not from Danmark. So from now on we will use Zeeland.
During the month June of 1944, the members of the Group Griep found themselves captivated when they heard the voice of BBC newsreader John Snagge on their secret radios. In his program, “War Report”, he told about the Allied invasion that began on June 6 on the beaches of Normandy. This joint operation was led by the U.S. Commanding General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the American forces were led by General George S. Patton and the British under Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery. The opposition members in Heinkenszand also heard reports about the devastating effects of the V1 rockets fired on England, and had perhaps a disappointed "Pity!" uttered when they heard on July 20 of the failed assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler, committed by Oberst (Colonel) Claus von Stauffenberg.
On 6 June 1944, “Operation Overlord” (code name for the Battle of Normandy better known as D-Day (Decision Day)) commenced. The German troops in the province of Zeeland were in turmoil. The residents saw long columns of soldiers heading south to towards France to crush the Allied advance. Hitler's Germany had every reason to worry. In September 1943, Italy had to surrender to the Americans and they had lost an important ally. Now they found there were also allied forces on French soil. When the Russian troops began to gain more and more ground in Eastern Europe, the fate of the German Empire began to turn.
On the European battlefield progress was now being made with Operation Cobra, (codename for an U.S. Army offensive conducted after the D-Day landings) an operation in which the allied troops tried to break free from their positions in Normandy. They were assisted by medium and heavy bombers. The German positions in the area had weaken. Despite the losses suffered by private air strikes, the operation was a success, and the Allied advance through France started.
The Crusaders of Wendling did their part in the operation. In July, they had successfully bombed targets along a strategically important road in the French town of Saint Lô. On August 2, they flew another mission to France, to get a bridge over the Somme River at the village of Corbie. However, the mist impacted their formation and put it off course, they hit secondary targets elsewhere. They observed no enemy fighters, but the dreaded Flak, the accurate German anti aircraft guns, caused much damage that day. The 579th BS, the bomb squadron that Gerow's crew was part of, had lost a lot of aircraft in the past. For example, the Crusaders had three bombers crash on English territory, where a co-pilot and flight engineer were killed. The rest were able to parachute to safety. During this mission, there was a large number of wounded.
On August 3 in the early morning, Gerow’s crew awakened in their huts on site 8. These huts were near the main road, in the heart of the English hamlet of Beeston. The officers of the crew shared a Nissen Hut for the four of them; Jim and Fred at one end and Dave and Joe at the other. The NCOs shared a Hut for the six of them. Next to site 8 was a farm where the soldiers of the squadrons sometimes performed chores in exchange for fresh milk and eggs. The men of the crew probably did not sleept well. The day before they had seen the name of their captain written in chalk on the blackboard. With mixed feelings they must have read the name, which meant that the next day they would fly. At that time they did not yet know whether it would be another training flight over the rustic English countryside, or that they finally would get their “baptism by fire”. This uncertainty made the tension greater. But now they were awakened so early, they knew it: this was the day! After they had washed and shaved in the latrine, they dressed, and walked together to the mess hall for breakfast. Waist gunner Loyce Ely and flight engineer Gene Kieras, who soon had become good friends after their meeting, walked along with waist gunner Ben Brink, radio operator Morton Baker and tail gunner Frenchy (Normand Hebert) to the mess for the enlisted personnel, while pilot Jim Gerow, co-pilot Fred Vallarelli, bombardier Joe Sulkowski and navigator Dave Grandon went to the officers' mess. When they were presented with fresh fried eggs, instead of scrambled eggs made from dried egg powder, it was impossible to deny today is the day. Fried eggs were indeed the privilege of the crews who went on a mission. During breakfast, they were informed by the commander of the tightened sanctions that from that day were in place1. It is doubtful whether the men were receptive to the information while they were eating their eggs. They also heard in the news of the day about the two fallen colleagues in their squadron. Often there was the uncertain fate of the men who did not return. Had they been killed or taken prisoner? Did they perhaps escaped and were hiding somewhere? It must have been hard news the crew to hear. Of course, it was not uncommon for colleagues not to return, but any dead colleagues underlined the realization that each mission, including the first, could be the final one.
Between 1300 and 14002 hours that afternoon there were 34 crews in Wendling, including nine in the 579th BS, receiving their instructions for the mission. This happened in different rooms in the headquarters. The officers were first given a separate briefing for pilots, navigators and bombardiers, and then whole crew for a joint briefing. Here they were told that the mission was part of Operation Cobra. The Crusaders would support a bombing of an oil refinery at Lens in the Pas-de-Calais in northwestern France. With a map visualizing everything south of England, the goals were set. This mission would be carried out by 482 Liberators, escorted by 178 Mustang and Thunderbolt fighters, from various air bases in England. This time there was no specific secondary purpose designated. Usually this was the case. If the primary purpose of the mission was not visible, there was often a second option. Not only was this to maximize the return from the mission but also it was dangerous for the crew to return to home base with a full load. If something should go wrong during the landing and the bomber would catch fire, and that happened sometimes, then the damage caused by the explosion of the bombs would be incalculable. If no alternative goal was found, the bombs were dropped into the sea if necessary. Because there were no secondary goals indicated, the crews were ordered to attack every enemy airfield, camp, railway, bridge, column or convoy, concentration of troops or equipment that they had in sight. They were given instructions on how to handle a possible crash into enemy territory in France; "Keep your head down and hide until the allied troops have reached you, instead of wandering around to find the lines yourself. Retreating Germans have a habit of evacuating people and to investigate every house that they encounter. If you're outside, you must behave as inconspicuously as possible, like a citizen. If you are hiding, do it as carefully as possible. It is very dangerous if you are found while you're hiding. If you manage to escape, do not tell any war correspondents or any unauthorized person whatsoever. "
After the briefing the crew was assigned to the Liberator called “Our Gal”. Liberator crews rarely had their own aircraft and had to use the bombers that were available. Sometimes they had to fly a brand new aircraft with all the latest improvements, but it could also be an old aircraft that was often patched up and already had many flying hours.
The crew went to the aircraft in which they first put into practice their training. While the bombs were loaded by the ground crew, the men had to smile at the painting on the nose of “Our Gal”, which was a half undressed blonde, who was slyly looking over her shoulder as she stepped in a mailbag. The crew took their position. Everyone checked the instruments and weapons at his station and meticulously looked at the mission again. Assisted by the ground crew, flight engineer Gene Kieras checked the entire aircraft for technical defects. Only after these preflight checks would the men go to their equipment. Because they would fly at high altitudes, they dressed themselves well for the extreme cold. They wore long underwear, over which the battle dress, the pants and the shirt. Over the fatigues they wore a thick electrically heated jacket and pants that their limited mobility and responsiveness, but were essential to protect them against freezing at high altitude. Over them they wore a bomber jacket and wide trousers. Over the jacket, they wore a yellow inflatable lifejacket called a Mae West, named after the famous diva because of her ample bosom. The men also wore a parachute harness. In the whole plane, and especially in the turrets, it was a tight affair and the parachute was heavy and clumsy. During boarding it was not immediately hooked to the harness, but loose in the hand. Because their freedom of movement was restricted, the crewmembers put the clumsy thing close to their position in the hope that in case of emergency they had enough time to grab it and be able to hook it up. Pilots and co-pilots often wore flat parachute bundles on their backs that covered the buttocks, so they were pillows on which they could sit during the flight. Often the men wore a flak jacket, a type of bulletproof vest, made of ballistic nylon and scaly metal slats underneath. This armor offered some protection against bullets and Flak shrapnel. Over their socks they wore felt heated indoor shoes, over which they wore thick lined boots. Their hands were protected against freezing by inner gloves and depending on their position on board, they wore gloves or mittens. A leather helmet with a built-in headphone protected the head. Furthermore, they carried in case the windshield was shot and broken, goggles and an oxygen mask with a microphone that allowed them to communicate through the intercom with each other.
Jim Gerow the Pilot and co-pilot Fred Vallarelli climbed through the hatch bombs inside and sat in the cockpit. Jim took his place in the left seat, which is today still the position for the pilot. It was his job to control the aircraft and to be commander of the crew. Fred sat in the judgment seat (on the right), and, if necessary, would take over the job of Pilot. Flight engineer Gene Kieras also climbed in the bomb hatch. During ascent, he sat with the pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit and then took place in the turret when necessary. A flight engineer had several functions during the flight; he was in charge of all the necessary technical operations; he had to fix all the technical defects and if necessary also acted as top turret gunner where he operated two machine guns. To man the top turret, Gene was located in the dome above the area of the radio operator and behind the cockpit. Joe Sulkowski, bombardier, Dave Grandon navigator and Morton Baker, radio operator, wriggled through the narrow hole in the front wheel. Joe's position was a space in the nose of the aircraft. It was his job to solve putting the bombs on the target. He had to determine when to drop the bombs. He did so with a top-secret bomb targeting system, called the Norden Bomb Sight, a device that was named after the Dutch inventor who had developed it. For Joe to achieve his goal even without this device, he would lie on his stomach on a pillow and look down through a window. If the bombardier neared his target, he took command of the Liberator from the pilot, and with the press of a button would drop the bombs. Both before and after his task, if necessary, the bombardier would man the two machine guns in the nose dome. Moreover, he was trained, when wounded or dead were on board, he could take over all gunner positions as well as the task of the navigator.
Dave Grandon, the navigator was located in a space in the nose of the aircraft, near the cockpit. Dave had a table, a stool, a lamp, various maps, a compass, radio and other equipment at his disposal. In the nose a small dome was mounted, called the astrodome, which at night he could navigate by the stars. This he rarely needed because Americans conducted mostly daytime flying. It was Dave's main task to determine the position of the aircraft, and to calculate the route it was flying. The position of Morton Baker, radio operator was behind the cockpit, where his table and his radio equipment were. He kept the radio link with the other aircraft in the formation and to the home base. To avoid the enemies gaining intelligence, the radio operator used code names during the communications. Such was the code name of the control tower of Wendling, BUTTER MILK and the code for the 14th Combat Wing, HAMBONE. The Crusaders were designated as NOT NOW. The numbers and letters on the aircraft had a coded meaning. At the tail rudder of the Crusaders was a circled painted with a D in the centre (D standing for the 392nd BG and the circle for the 2nd Bombardment Division). The 579th BS where Gerow’s crew was a part of was designated as: FACE UP, with GC as identity code, painted on the tail. An individual aircraft was indicated by a letter during the radio call, sometimes with the addition of a dash or a plus, for example B or Z+, and also the last three digits of the serial number were visible on the rudder. Both sides used codes and nicknames in battle. Thus, enemy fighters mentioned by the Americans for example were “Bandits”, while the Germans called American fighters “Indianer” and bombers as “Kuriere”.
Loyce, Ben and Frenchy climbed in through the back hatch of the unit. The B-24 had in the back two large side windows with security shutters flapping inside which were folded up as the shooters came into action. From these openings, the two gunmen on each side could fire a machine gun. The left side gun was operated by Loyce, the right by Ben. Frenchy's position was in the tail turret where he defended the vulnerable rear of the aircraft against looming fighters.
After everyone had taken their position, about 16202 hours a flare was fired from the control tower, then the four squadrons of the Crusaders took off one by one. The Liberators gathered behind their strikingly painted assembly ship, the Minerva. This aircraft was painted with an optical illusion of two additional noses, making it to the side seemed like three Liberators flew together. Behind the Minerva the formation was formed. It consisted of several Combat Wings. An ideal Combat Wing consisted of three squadrons each of six aircraft; the Lead Squadron, the High and the Low Squadron. It varied depending on the number of aircraft available. After the formation was formed, the Minerva turned back to the base.
The weather over the North Sea was partly clear that day, but once they flew over French territory, Jim and Fred saw that the view of the main target was severely limited by heavy clouds. Thirteen aircraft returned unsuccessfully, two because of technical faults and eleven because of the weather. Because they had crossed the Channel and had flown over enemy territory, this flight was still charged as a full mission. Two squadrons of 21 aircraft did not have to waste their loads and opted for an alternative objective. One of these aircraft was “Our Gal”.
Dr. Kees Griep had just been on the road to check on a patient in Kruiningen. He was on his way home and drove the gas-powered Fiat over the Vlakebrug (a strategic important bridge that was the main connection between Zuid-Beveland and the rest of the Netherlands). It was a beautiful summer day, about 20 degrees, with a gentle breeze and almost no cloud in the sky. The bridge connecting the two banks of the Canal through Zuid-Beveland consisted of a railway bridge and a road bridge. It was slightly further south than the current Vlakebrug. Because it was an important link to the rest of the Netherlands, it was more strictly controlled. But Kees was a doctor, had a special permit and easily passed the German roadblock. After he had a second roadblock behind him, he rode quietly on the highway in the direction of Heinkenszand when he was startled by humming in the distance, followed by the firing of Flak artillery and heavy explosions. While in his rearview mirror he looked hastily to the bridge Kees stepped on it and thanked God that he hadn’t left a minute later.
Morton Baker was been told on the radio that the secondary target a strategic bridge was in the Netherlands. On July 8 of that year, the Vlakebrug was bombed. Due to many Flak positions around this important bridge they had to fly very high so that bombing was only a moderate success. There were, however, four people dead and two wounded. These two lost a leg. Although the Vlakebrug was a secondary goal, it was important that the Crusaders would succeed this time. Bombing this bridge could seriously slow down the German transport of equipment and troops to the German fortifications on Walcheren, which was a part of the heavily fortified Atlantic Wall. Walcheren was the key that allowed use of the deep-water port of Antwerp. While squadrons of aircraft approached the bridge, the men of Gerow's crew for the first time were confronted with shelling by the dreaded Flak. They had been told during the training that it was innocent looking, but the deadly black smoke plumes suddenly loomed around the aircraft. They were told about the flak shrapnel that cut through metal and flesh, but you could not be trained for the real confrontation. There they had to simply learn to cope during the battle. Despite being under heavy fire, the gunners could not do anything. Because of the severity of the German barrage, the Crusaders flew high above their target. Sometimes “Our Gal” shook dangerously through the shrapnel that struck holes in the belly. Jim Gerow brought the Liberator in position and then bombardier Joe Sulkowski took command. The shutters in the bomb bay were rolled up in an open position, exposing the destructive cargo. As soon as he saw the bridge on the screen of the Norden Bomb Sight, Joe released the bombs with the push of a button and a "Bombs away!" The 500-pound General Purpose-bombs3 fell on the bridge. In total, the group dropped 264 500-pound bombs above the bridge. This attack had far more effect than the previous attempt. Both the bridge and railway bridge were virtually destroyed. This time the bridges came down in the right channel, stopping car and train traffic, but also the boat traffic became congested. Not only were the bridges destroyed, but also the former train station coffee shop, hotel, and pub Vlake owned by the Kersten family. The family lived downstairs, while German soldiers were quartered on the upper floor. The Americans bombed the coffee house because the bombers were under fire from German Flak on the roof. It turned out that there was one deadly victim in the bombing. It was a close call; Kees Griep could have been the second.
During this mission there were no enemy fighters seen, so the gunners did not take action. In the summer of 1944, they rarely encountered enemy fighters. Because the German aircraft factories and oil refineries were frequently bombed, the Luftwaffe was suffering from a serious shortage of both fuel and flight equipment. The intense air battles, the real dogfights as took place in the beginning of the war, were now only sporadic and only above major German cities. Despite that, every mission was a perilous undertaking. During this mission, the various Flak positions from the ground damaged 20 aircraft of the Crusaders. One of those bombers did reach England, but it was so badly damaged that the crew had to leave the aircraft early, then it crashed near Wendling. One crewmember broke his ancle after he had landed in a tree. That evening, about 2230 hours, Gerow's crew returned. Their debut in the European war theater was successful. From takeoff to landing had lasted more than five hours. This time no Crusaders personnel were killed. While fatigue after the adrenaline rush began to take its toll, the crew had to first undergo a debriefing, where they were quizzed by the leadership. Then they had to report all details about their mission. Only then could they rest a bit from their “baptism by fire”.
1: Failure to follow a lawful order of an officer one faced from that day of 45 days of imprisonment and a fine of $ 25. On drunkenness and disorder were a 60-day prison sentence and a fine of $ 35. Desertion and evading imprisonment was three months hard labor and a fine of $ 120.
2: In 1940, the Germans used Central European Time, which for example in the Netherlands still applies. This is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time in England. Dutch readers have to add one hour.
3: The term General Purpose (GP) bomb is used for a bomb that has the characteristics of a fragmentation bomb and a powerful explosive.
Man I love WW2 history. I am stationed at Kleine Brogel Airbase in Belgium. So much history happened here in my area. A few of the old timers around the pubs have told me about a few bombers and fighters that went down in the town I live in. Thanks for sharing!!
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