And, sure enough, our poor troops in most of our country were overrun in a day or two by the might and agression of the German military machine.On May 10, 1940, at 15:55 hrs. to be precise, Adolf Hitler, just like that, without any cause or provocation by the Netherlands, gave the order for the Nazis to invade the Netherlands!!Hitler could do that so easily without serious repercussions because Holland, militarily, was a walk-over. The Dutch government had cut back on military spending for years and had equipped our meager Dutch forces with cheap, antiquated, inadequate arms and supplies. Time and again, history has shown that military weakness invites, even encourages AGGRESSION, frequently BRUTAL AGGRESSION! *) see below
This was a "9/11" attack on our entire country!
The pictures below illustrate the devastating damage the Germans inflicted that morning, a morning which had started out like a normal sunny morning in May, just like 9/11. Remember: no provocation, no cause, no warning. The Nazis hit Holland out of the blue, literally "out of the blue!":
As you can see above, most - if not all - of our Air Force bases had been bombed to pieces. The Nazis had blown our Air Force runways to smithereens. Holland had less than a handful of fighters and bombers left with which we could defend ourselves!
In these shambles, and facing overwhelming German aggression, Dutch Air Force pilot Bodo Sandberg, my Dad, was called into action on May 13, 1940. He had to fly one of the few G-1 fighters we still had, to protect our last T-5 bomber against a deluge of German Messerschmitts. Their mission was to bomb our own ?Moerdijk? bridges over the wide estuary of the Haringvliet, to hold back the Nazi invasion.
In the full awareness that he was likely to die as his chance of survival was virtually NIL he flew his mission heroically against the overwhelming devastation, death, destruction and vicious aggression of the Nazis.
Above: Bodo Sandberg in his Fokker G-1 fighter plane defending our country Below: Invading Germans with heavy machine guns at the Moerdijk bridges
Above is a painting by Thijs Postma , showing the attack on the Moerdijk bridges on May 13, 1940, our attempt to prevent the German armored divisions from crossing the big rivers and invade their way into Holland (it was a purely defensive operation, only to destroy our own bridges; our squadron wasn't even out to kill invading enemy personnel). This was the last attack by a Dutch bomber, a Fokker T5 (and also the last Fokker T5 bomber the Dutch had left, three days into the war). The T5 bomber was protected by two Fokker G-1 fighters. One was flown by Lt.vl. Sandberg with Srgt. v.d. Breemer and the other by Lt.vl. Schoute with Srgt. Lindner. The crew of the Fokker T5 bomber where Lt. W.F. Anceaux, Lt .B. Swagerman, Srgt. G.A. van Riemsdijk, Srgt. O.W. Douwes-Dekker and Sldr.-gunner J. Wijnstra
Dreadfully, just beyond Dordrecht, the small Dutch squadron was attacked by nine Messerschmitt fighters! Three of the Messerschmitts attacked the T-5. The other six split up and attacked the two G-1s. The T5 went down in flames and crashed in the Grienden along the Noord, near Ridderkerk . All five of its crew members perished. According to unconfirmed reports Wijnstra and Fist Officer Douwes Dekker may have initially survived the crash. With their clothing ablaze they scrambled to reach the water but, despite being helpless - and harmless - on the ground at that point, they were shot and murdered from the air by the Nazi gunners in the Messerschmitts.
Our five Dutch heroes were buried on
B. Swagerman O.W. Douwes Dekker C.A van Riemsdijk
On May 15th, Hans Metzlar, a flight observer during some of the previous six flights of the T-V 856, decided to honor his fallen comrades. He drove the DKW, Swagerman had left behind, from Schiphol airport to Aalsmeer (today the largest flower-auction in the world) to get flowers for the graves of his fallen friends. Ten minutes later, the back seat of Swagerman?s DKW was ?snowed under? with carnations and chrysanthemums, with which the little car had spontaneously been filled to the brim??. During the funerals on May 16th, our fallen heroes? graves were covered with those flowers.
The other G-1 was also shot down and crashed in a polder at Nieuw-Lekkerland. Pilot Sgt. Paul Schoute perished in the violently burning wreck. Hans Lindner was thrown out of the plane and ended up against the verge of a waterway with his leg shot off. His hair still burning. Someone rushed to help him, extinguished it with water from the canal, but he died shortly thereafter.
These two hero aviators were initially buried in Nieuw-Lekkerland, but were re-buried a month later.
Paul Schoute (23) Hans Lindner (25)
Only one G-1 managed to make it back to base at Schiphol airport from this mission that was so vital in Holland?s desperate defense against the Nazi invaders. Sandberg was bleeding from bullet holes through his leather pilot's jacket, but he and his crew-member v.d. Breemer survived this mission. They were the only two.
England, USA, Australia and New Guinea
After the May days Sandberg managed to escape to
Bodo Sandberg who survived fighting on two fronts (first in Holland against the Nazis and then in Australia, New Guinea and Malaysia against the Japanese!) lived to be 90. He died on May 2, 2005 and was cremated on May 4, by coincidence, although as if by fate, on the Dutch National day of mourning for our fallen heroes; the one day a year on which he, his wife, and two sons would stand on top of the dunes along the Dutch shoreline, look out over the North Sea, watch the sun set into the sea, and honor our heroes. The one special day on which he so deeply remembered his fallen friends.
Amongst others, Jhr. Bodo Sandberg was awarded the ?Kruis van Verdienste? (the ?Cross of Merit?) and the ?Vliegers Kruis? (the ?Flying Cross?), both Knight?s Orders awarded ?for valor, facing enemy action? by H.R.H. Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands.
In the 1947 picture below, Bodo Sandberg receives the "Ereteken voor Orde en Vrede" awarded to him by H.R.H. Queen Juliana of The Netherlands.
The large medal, the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, the
Bodo rarely, if ever, talked about the war.
He had locked those gruesome memories away; very deeply away!
My brother Steven was born in August 1940 and remembers more than I do. Obviously... I wasn?t even born those days. I was born on March 23, 1946, so I was very little when I heard bits and pieces of Dad?s story. Steven helped me a lot, filling in the blanks. In writing this story I may therefore not be exactly accurate in what I remember, but Bodo lived through some shocking and astonishing experiences, that should not be forgotten. They are worth remembering, even if Bodo himself tried as hard as he could NOT to, as future generations - like my own children - can learn from them.