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Dear fellow 8th Air Force Historians and Museums,
For the past two years Paul M. Andrews and I worked on putting together the most updated list of Aircraft and Pilots/Crews that flew the very first humanitarian relief effort, "Operation Chowhound," May 1-7, 1945. Paul Andrews got it as close as he could for the Chowhound Symposium held by the 100th Bomb Group at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans this past weekend (September 26, 2015.) The presentation was streamed worldwide.
This project is by no means complete, and we both encourage sharing any information that has been unintentionally omitted. It was our goal from the start to share this information with the Groups who participated in the mission and those that contributed to this document.
Paul M. Andrews is the foremost research authority on the 8th Air Force and his work here is amazing as always. Feel free to add this document to your website but please credit the authors. This is not to be published for sale without the consent of the authors. Thank you everyone.
Michael P. Faley
100th Bomb Group Historian & Photo Archives
100th Bomb Group BOD
13th Combat Wing Historian
Standing: Ralph E. Spada, Matthew Schipper, Alfred Collins, Paul Gerling
Joe Carl Martin - Pilot, Antonio Piccone, Henry Cervantes
Kneeling: William E. Dudecz, Norman Larsen
I am one of the 100th Bomb Group pilots that flew three Operation Manna missions over The Netherlands. Following are my recollections of the event. "The agreement with the German area commander required that we stay under 500-feet, remain within strictly mandated corridors, and not carry gunners aboard our B-17s. No one felt any better when our pre-mission briefer added, "Anyone fired upon will receive credit for a combat mission." The modified bomb bays were loaded with boxes of ten-in-one rations and on May 3rd we flew our first mission. We went in at wave-top level, hopped over the dykes, and skimmed by telephone poles in an effort to stay as low as possible. German flaks batteries where everywhere and we kept a wary eye at the gunners who squinted at us like duck hunters waiting for the season to open. Early May is tulip time in Holland and despite the ugly scars of war, carpets of blazing colors dotted the countryside. Joyful women and children were everywhere. Some waved American and Dutch flags at us while others pointed to messages in open fields that read, "Thank You Boys," and the like. Near Amsterdam we "bombed" an open field centered with a white cross that appeared to be fashioned from bed sheets. Below us, it was a free-for-all as civilians with German soldiers among them could be seen scrambling for boxes as even more of the 50-pound missiles showered down. On May 5th, we repeated our performance over Bergen and were again treated to the heartwarming sight of mothers hugging their children as they pointed to the big grins on our faces." Although, I flew 26 combat missions over Germany, among all of my wartime experiences those three missions are among my most treasured memories.
Henry Cervantes, Lt. Colonel USAF (Retired)
Chowhound: Mercy Mission to Holland
The Griswold Smith Crew (Left to Right)
Standing: 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.
The following is a from a letter home after George's first Chowhound mission, May 1, 1945. His crew participated in the three flights of May 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. They were very rewarding and memorable experiences for all the 100th.
I took part in a mission today which was not in the line with the usual task of heavy bombers. I suppose tomorrow’s newspapers at home will be full of accounts of the mission. Today our bomb bays contained no high explosives but were loaded instead with food parcels.
We flew in low over Holland, still enemy territory, to deliver our load to a portion of the starving Dutch people. Only a few hundred feet above the ground, we really saw things first hand over there. I saw hundreds of people waving as waving as we passed over settlements, towns and cities along our course. They fairly danced in the streets and there were more flags to the breeze than I had ever seen before. I couldn’t help getting a lump in my throat and a drop or two in the ol’ eyes to look down and see people so grateful.
I even saw German gunners at their position waving to us. Sights you wouldn’t believe. A man with a horse and wagon was the most amusing thing to see as he raced along a road toward the falling parcels from our planes. Boy, was he standing up on that buck board and making that horse really pick ‘em up and lay ‘em down! There were two other incidents that were funny too. Saw lots of people waving articles of clothing and men took off their pants to hold in the breeze. There were women too on top of a flat building waving an outstretched white sheet. It looked like they wanted us to drop parcels right in their laps. Here in England, cows and horses never pay attention to airplanes, but over there its quite another matter. Boy, those horses would run for three hundred yards when we passed. I saw one horse run right into a canal and then swim back to shore. A lot of the country has been flooded by the Germans and it is a miserable looking sight. It will take a long time to repair the dykes and reclaim the Dutch lands.
I feel like I really did something constructive today instead of blasting some place to blazes.
100th Bomb Group Chowhound Missions
While the sight of big four engine bombers with their bomb bay doors open had previously spread fear and destruction across Fortress Europe, starting May 1, 1945 it meant only manna from heaven was coming to the Dutch people. Facing starvation and in need of immediate assistance while the final details of the surrender of the German forces could be worked out, the Mighty Eighth came to the rescue of the Dutch. The B-17G Flying Fortresses of the 100th Bomb Group dropped tons of food and supplies to the needy of Holland and in doing so, helped save the lives of many. As the children waved and hoped for candy and gum, the mothers and fathers hoped the parcels floating down carried the food they needed to feed their hungry families. Flying a preset course arranged between the Allies and Germans occupying the territory, the Forts came in low and vulnerable (some as low as 200 feet). Even on mercy missions the prospect of mechanical failure at such a low level or overzealous German gunners could not stop losses from happening. Thankfully, the 100th BG did not experience any of these losses, but our sister group, the 95th did.
Many who flew these missions will never forget them and recall them being some of the proudest moments they experienced during the war. We open this section with thanks to all those who helped bring HOPE back to a war torn Europe, and to the people of Holland for never forgetting. We also want to thank Jack O’Leary for sharing many items for display here from his archives.
Click on a mission for more detail:
5/1/1945 VALKENBURG, HAGUE-CHOWHOUND
5/2/1945 SCHIPHOL AF/ HOLLAND CHOWHOUND
5/3/1945 HILVERSUM- C & D SQDNS-CHOWHOUND
5/3/1945 ALKMAAR, AF, A & B SQDNS-CHOWHOUND
5/5/1945 ALKMAAR, AF, HILVERSUM, BAARN, CH
5/6/1945 HILVERSUM, C & D SQDNS-CHOWHOUND
5/6/1945 ALKMAAR, AF, A & B SQDNS-CHOWHOUND
5/7/1945 SHIPHOL AF HOLLAND-CHOWHOUND