On May 10, 1940, at 03:55 hrs. in the middle of the night, to be precise, Adolf Hitler ordered the Nazis to invade the Netherlands!!
Yes, just like that!
(Holland had not provoked Hitler in any way, or given him any cause to attack us. He gave us no warning. Hitler simply - and brutally - attacked Holland)
Hitler could do that so easily, without serious repercussions, because the Netherlands, militarily, was a "walk-over". The Dutch government had cut back on military spending for years and had left our meager Dutch forces with antiquated planes (some even from the first world war!), ammunition that did not detonate (it was made "on the cheap" by the lowest bidder...), inadequate arms, deficient supplies, etc., etc.. Hitler, for sure, did not invade Switzerland: He knew full well that Switzerland was armed to the teeth and fully prepared to defend itself!!
Indeed, in May 1940, our poor troops in the Netherlands were overrun in a day or two by the might and aggression of the German military machine.
The pictures below illustrate the devastating damage the Germans inflicted on us that morning, a morning which had started out like a normal sunny morning in May (just like September 11, 2001 in the USA...).
Remember: We were attacked without provocation, without cause, without warning.
The Nazis hit the Netherlands out of the blue, literally "out of the blue!"
(For the moral of the story see "Lesson to be learned" at the bottom of this chapter)
As you can see above, virtually all of our Air Force bases had been bombed to pieces. The Nazis had blown almost all of our Military aircraft and runways to smithereens. We did not expect to be attacked so all of our Air Force planes were on the ground and so virtually all of them were destroyed while still on the ground in that first attack. At the end of day one of the war, Holland had one bomber and two fighter planes left to defend our country against the overwhelming military might of Nazi Germany.!
Three days into the war, in these shambles and facing gruesome 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 two G-1 fighter planes 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 German invasion (a totally defensive move).
In the full awareness that he was likely to die that day, as his chance of survival was virtually NIL, he hugged my mother who, at that point, was seven months pregnant of my older brother. In an intensely tearful goodbye Dad said "it's so sad! I will never know my child, I don't even know if it's a boy or a girl". But, he went to work that morning and he flew his mission anyway and heroically.
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 the Netherlands (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 fighter plane, in this mission that was so vital in Holland's desperate defense against the Nazi invaders, managed to outfly the onslaught of the German Messerschmits. Shot by the machine guns from the Messerschmits, Sandberg was bleeding from bullet holes through his leather pilot's jacket, but he found a cloud in the air in which he could hide his plane and, thanks to that cloud, he managed to escape from the German attackers. Not for long though, as his plane had taken fire as well and was on fire. He could not make it back to base. Miraculously he managed to keep his damaged plane in the air long enough to make an emergency landing on the highway between the Hague and Amsterdam. It was a close call but Sandberg and his crew-member v.d. Breemer, albeit it badly wounded, survived this mission. Sadly, they were the only two.
England, USA, Australia and New Guinea
After the May days Sandberg managed to make his way to
Bodo Sandberg who survived fighting on two fronts (first in the Netherlands 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 very special day on which he so deeply and dearly 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.
"Lesson to be learned":
History, time and again, has shown that,
just like in the playground at school, the bullies bully the weak little kid,
military weakness and weak leadership INVITES AGGRESSION
WEAKNESS ENCOURAGES AGGRESSION!!
frequently BRUTAL AGRESSION!
All the weak little kid needs to do to stop and/or prevent the bullying is, one day, come prepared with a BIG 2x4 with a nail in it and the bullies will never bully him/her again!!
Now, ALARMINGLY!!, we do NOT seem to have learned from history because, in 2008-2016 we saw precisely the same thing happening all over again. The explosive growth, vicious violence and atrocious brutality of ISIS was being facilitated by the weakness and inaction of then President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama.
Just like it happened in Holland, when our - then - Prime Minister (from 1939/1940), Jhr. Dirk Jan de Geer, disgraced himself - and our country! - by sympathizing with the Nazis and advocating a peace settlement with Nazi Germany in 1940.
At least, during the war in the Netherlands, we had Queen Wilhelmina who fired our Nazi sympathizing Prime Minister. Indeed when, after the war, de Geer was brought to Justice, he was convicted to a year in prison for treason.
But in America we don't have a Queen Wilhelmina to protect and preserve the integrity of the USA (and the world, for that matter!!). In America it's "We the People" and We the People had the responsibility to do what Queen Wilhelmina did for Holland. We the People should have fired Barack Hussein Obama
Just like our Prime Minister sympathized with the Nazis, Barack Hussein Obama sympathized with militant radical Islam.
Now one might wonder why he would do that.
Could it be because Barack Hussein Obama's father was a Muslim?
Maybe because Barack Hussein Obama's stepfather also was a Muslim?
Or because Barack Hussein Obama grew up in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world?
To go to the next chapter, go to the column at the top left of this page, and click on: "Bodo's Recollections"