Certain missions conducted by the Eighth Air Force during World War Two will always be remembered because of their place in history, results achieved, losses incurred. Thus, much has been written about the raids on Regensburg, Berlin, Schweinfurt, Munster, and the shuttle missions to Russia and Africa. However, the very last missions flown by the 100th B.G. were also quite memorable. Not a single bomb was dropped on these missions which were dubbed “Chow Runs”.
The last mission in which I was involved was the city of Aussig. After that, there were simply no viable targets left to bomb—Patton’s tanks were racing toward the Elbe River and the Russian forces were at the gates of Berlin.
Days later we were surprised to observe that our planes were being modified in a strange way — trap doors were being installed in the bomb bays. These doors were hinged on one side and attached to bomb release shackles on the other. We didn’t understand the purpose of these changes; but, we did realize that, for us, the war was over.
A few days later we gathered for a mission briefing. We were told that the Germans still controlled portions of the coast of Holland and that in preparation of their withdrawal, dikes had been blown resulting in extensive flooding of that low country. Because of that flooding, many of the Dutch people were stranded and, in certain areas, near starvation. The purpose of our mission was to fly in, very low, and drop food — flour, beans, canned goods and other staples to the Dutch people.
We were also told that Allied Supreme Headquarters was attempting to contact the German Headquarters to request safe passage into that air space. However, no answer was received. So, another message was sent stating that this was a mercy mission and requesting that the Germans not fire on these planes. We were understandably nervous as we flew over the coast and the German gun emplacements. We saw no anti-aircraft fire so Ike’s message must have been received.
The flight was quite exhilarating since we were at an altitude of 300 feet or less. It felt as if we were leap-frogging over higher islands of land and it seemed we were looking into the upper stories of the taller buildings. We dropped the food at the designated point and headed home.
A day or so later we flew a second “Chow Run” mission. This time the Dutch people were expecting us and could be seen streaming in from all directions carrying bags and boxes or pulling small carts or wagons. The scene was so clearly visible to us at that low altitude. And also, clearly visible, was the message, spelled out on the ground, in flowers— “Thank You Boys”. I doubt there were many dry eyes as we dropped the food and headed back out over the Zuider Zee for home.