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Chowhound: Mercy Mission to Holland

The Griswold Smith Crew (Left to Right)
DeLome Cumbaa, John J. O’Leary, Earl J. Baugh, Stanley A. Szalwinski, Anthony R. Russo
Kneeling: Gris Smith, Robert Smith, Wilson P Turnipseed,Paul A. Wilkerson

We flew three or four mercy missions to Holland carrying food. One of them was before the Germans surrendered. We had some kind of armistice with the Germans in Holland. They promised not to shoot at us when we brought food to the starving Dutch. We went at a low altitude (200 ft.) and dropped the food in specified areas. WE had orders not to drop unless we saw crowds of civilians. The Dutch people were lined up around the edges of the field waving and cheering. On our first mercy mission, we could see German troops marching around in their black uniforms with swastikas flying.

I took Erwin Jones with me on a “mercy mission” on the day Holland surrendered. We were taxiing out to take off in the usual manner when the hydraulic system on the ship stopped working. The breaks on a B-17 are hydraulically operated. We were moving right along on the taxi strip right behind another ship. The ship in front of us stopped and we couldn’t. It looked as if we couldn’t avoid running into her. The bombardier and navigator (John F. Accinelli and Norbert L. Rabaskiewicz) were having a fit trying to get out of the nose. The co-pilot was madly stamping on the breaks, and I was having a fit reaching around trying to throw all the switches in the cockpit. Several gunners standing behind my seat were sweating blood.

We finally restored the hydraulic system and stopped the ship in the last possible fraction of a second. Erwin was riding in the very front of the ship in the glass nose oblivious to all our troubles. After we had finally stopped, he calmly turned around and innocently asked the navigator if we weren’t awfully close. The navigator couldn’t answer, as he was able to breathe yet.

We dropped out 4,000 pounds of food after trouble with the improvised “drop floors” in the bomb bay. We buzzed Amsterdam a couple of times. O’Leary, who was riding up front in the nose where he could get a better view of the town, called out over the interphone, “Church steeple coming in at 12 O’clock high!” I believe Erwin was along the day we buzzed a small sail boat on the Zuider Zee and blew it over.

Our second “mercy mission” was on the day the Germans in Holland surrendered. The Dutch had really turned out; flags were flying everywhere, and the streets were packed with people cheering and waving. It was a great day for the Dutch. We buzzed a little more and then came home.

Chowhound Missions

Ration Boxes
Food parcels just released
"Thank you, boys"
"Thank you, boys"
"Thank you, boys"
"Thank you America."
Postmark from the postcard
Rare Dutch Delft 1945 tile
John O'Leary's WWII scrapbook