The unveiling of the monument took place on September 29th, 2018 at various locations.
First there was a meeting at the Landhoeve:
Here the words of welcome from the Mayor van der Borg (Molenwaard county):
Welcome to Colonel Scott C.Fisher of the Embassy of the United States of America, the Commander of the Dutch Air Force, Colonel Rab, our guests from America, dear ladies en gentlemen, boys and girls,
“The streets were filled with people giving the 'V' for victory sign and wondering when the invasion was coming.” These words wrote Bill Yancy at November 17th, 2014 in the first pages of his book “We knew we were in for a long day”. The true story of a crash near the little village of Streefkerk. Bill Yancy, was the neighbor of bombardier/gunner O.D. Tully. This book give's the best reasons to realize this memorial.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today is a very special day. Thanks for the opportunity to speak to you all. A special warm welcome to our American guests. It’s a great honor to meet you. You’re our connection to those brave men who lost their lives or were kept as a prisoner after the crash of the B-17G ‘Mission Belle’ at the 1st of December, 1943. I will continue my speech in Dutch, knowing that there will be a translation in English.
Today, a part of our history will be visible. Visibility helps us to keep our history alive. It will make sure that the conversations about those days will not be hushed. It gives us a place to go back to the Second World War. And to think about the foundation of our democracy, our state of law. The basis for our freedom was then put in place. Among them who fought for us, was also the crew of the B-17G ‘Mission Belle’. Brave American men who were flying back home after a brave mission over Leverkusen, where they fought far from home, for our freedom. They represented hope for many Dutch people and other Europeans who suffered a lot during this terrible war. People in our Alblasserwaard region, in our county Molenwaard, what later on will be renamed Molenlanden.
People, here and elsewhere in our region, were witness of the B-17G making a crash, after it got damaged badly. On December 1st, 1943 the plane came down. Three of the crew didn’t survive this. Their names are:
- Harland V. Sunde(1921-1943); the pilot
2. D.C. (Doyle) McCutchen (1921-1943); the gunner of the belly turret
- J.F. (John) Healy (1914-1943); the tail gunner
The other men spend the rest of the war in German prisoner of war camps. Their names are: Carlton Josephson, Charles Culver, Claudio Stefano Carano, William England, Roger Christensen, O.D. Tully and James Sweaney.
In a fragment of O.D. Tully’s prisoner of war diary, he wrote: “I can’t remember that I ever had it so cold. I was hungry and felt miserably. Just two days from Christmas, I felt lonely and depressive. I was homesick and far away from home and no contact with my family and friends. When Christmas began, I experienced the most peaceful and happy days of my life. In this lonely, boring and insecure situation, I realized what the full meaning of this day, the birth of Prince of Peace. Christmas of 1943 became unforgettable for me, invaluable.”
We remember today the men who didn’t survive the crash and we think about the families and friends they left behind; you as next of kin. It’s a miracle that the prisoners returned home after the war, although they had deep wounds. It is honorable what they did.
It’s very special what the Mission Belle Foundation accomplished to make a everlasting memory. Since the summer of 2016, the Mission Belle Foundation worked with passion including these spirited people: André Hoogendoorn, Evert de Bruijn, Gwendolijne Verheij, John Heuvelman, Kees Stam, Theo Jansen en Wim Hasman. John and Wim wrote the book Mission Belle, with eyewitness accounts by Kees Stam and edited by Mrs. Ouweneel – van Dam.
This book alone was a landmark. With sponsoring, also from America, the sales of the book, selling certificates, big lobby’s for support in other frames, made it in early 2017 possible to create a monument. After that came considerations with local inhabitants and other parties to make a fitting monument in a fitting environment. Many volunteered to create the monument and this beautiful memorial, for which we are gathered here today. It’s the force of this beautiful environment , where working together can lead to the success of this charity.
The contact I had personally about this initiative, the enthusiasm of every person, did make a huge impression on me. Great, non ending efforts. The bridge we can build to the past today is made possible by many people.
The society of Nieuw-Lekkerland/Streefkerk and Lekkerkerk and other people and businesses got involved during the preparation. History brought to live again. Young and old work together. Just as they did on December 1st, 1943.
It’s special to stand in front of you. A landmark anno 2018 in the presence of those, for which history left deep wounds. They who made our peace possible . Our peace and freedom are not self-evident. We also look ahead today. To our youths, who will keep the memory alive and today through the school ‘De Wegwijzer’ that will play an important part. Boys and girls, tell in the future about this history and the importance of peace.
I thank you for your tireless effort, making special contacts, the perseverance to get to where we are today.
We are going to unveil the monument. You shall be impressed by the way the story of the ‘Mission Belle’ is portrayed. A memorial full of symbolism. On a unique spot at the Lekdijk, close to where the former bar ‘The Little Swan’ was. A historical place. That many will find the way to this monument. And to experience in the silence of this environment that freedom and peace a task is for everyone. And that’s living together in unity. Whether you live in America or in the Alblasserwaard region.
Here the speech of André Hoogendoorn, chairman of the Mission Belle Foundation:
It’s a great pleasure and honor for me to tell you something about the monument that will be unveiled today. A monument to remember the emergency landing, that had to be made by an American B-17G bomber. It happened after been shot by German anti-aircraft guns and fighters. The crash of this B-17G, the ‘Mission Belle’, happened on December 1st, 1943 in the Lek river, near our town Nieuw-Lekkerland. It will be 75 years ago, over 2 months. You, as next of kin of the crew, knows this history better than me.
My speech has the title “Let’s not forget”. I want to tell you about these three points:
- The reason why we worked so hard for this monument.
- The background of why we worked so hard for this monument.
- the symbolism of this monument.
The factual reason to think about the history of December 1st, 1943 is the book with the title “We knew we were in for a long day”. This book has been written in 2013 by the American Bill Yancy.
Yancy was the neighbor of O.D. Tully, the bombardier / gunner aboard the ‘Mission Belle’ and one of the survivors. Our mayor, mr. Dirk van den Borg got this book when a monument was unveiled in Giessenburg on May 2nd, 2014. It was this book that made mayor van den Borg decide, during a personal conversation with Kees Stam, our member and project leader, to do something with this history.
Also the current members of the foundation, John Heuvelman and Wim Hasman, were busy to find everything out about this history. And they also thought that something had to be done with this. Through the contacts between mayor Dirk van der Borg, Kees Stamand our treasurer Theo Jansen, these people came together and the initiative started to begin a foundation with as goal to keep this history alive. Remembering, but also honoring the crew that did everything for our freedom.
Why now, 75 years after it happened, to create a monument? The answer to that question is pretty simple. We live here in Europe, in The Netherlands for almost 75 years in peace. Without war or any threat of it. You could think that’s normal. Especially for my generation and younger, who never experienced a war. If we look around the world today, it’s not so self-evident that we should enjoy a life of freedom, despite race, religion or sexual orientation. This freedom is not known in many countries. There are so many refugees today more than ever. And a united Europe is also not so self-evident and the alliances of this continent are under pressure. Just because of that we should “not forget”. We should realize it every day, that our freedom was fought for heavily and at high cost. Often by Young people from other countries like America, England and Canada.
Also by the ‘Mission Belle’ crew. Freedom asks for responsibility. Responsibility as it is written and by action. Freedom of expression also means that you shouldn’t say everything. That you shouldn’t have to think about what you are going to say and what the effect of your words will be. That we can live here in freedom, thanks to the action of young people from other countries, gives us a moral responsibility. A moral responsibility to help other people, when they are in trouble. Even if they are not Dutch.
The monument we are unveiling today, reminds us of an event in 1943, that happened in our own surroundings/in our town. An event that made an impression on our own community. We, as board, are convinced that the memory of such a impressive local event will help us to keep the remembrance of the war years alive. It will help us as well that freedom is not self-evident.
At the end, something about the symbolism of the monument. When we, as a board thought about how the monument should look like, one thing was obvious. It should be very clear, in one look at it, where this monument should remind us of. And we think wesucceeded. The monument is made of 3 granite columns with a model of the ‘Mission Belle’ added to it. The model is made of several layers to give it a good three dimensional look. The model is based on drawings of the American B-17G bomber and is given the characterizations of the ‘Mission Belle’. On every of the three granite columns is a photo with the personal information of one of the three men, killed during the fight in the air or when the plane crashed. On the top of these columns a fracture which symbolizes that the life of these three young men got broken.
The plane came down near the jetty in the Lek river. That’s why the model of the B-17G is installed on the columns, with the nose of the plane in the direction of the Lek river. If you drive from here to the monument, it looks like the plane will fly into the river. The base of the monument is finished with basalt stones, so this part of the monument looks a lot like the jetty where ‘Mission Belle’ came down. This location of the monument is chosen, so when you stand in front of it and look at it , you can see the exact location where the crash took place.
To stay in the mood of the jetty, we put 4 big rocks in front of the monument with information boards on it, with the photo’s and personal information of all 10 crew members. On these information boards we have also put a short description of this history. So everybody who passes this monument by can see this history.
I told you in the beginning that we want to keep this history alive. Well, I can tell you that this story is really alive! We, as a board, did get so many positive reactions, when we were working with this monument, and so much cooperation. It’s really incredible. No matter where we asked for help, at authorities, at businesses, at clubs, at the people who live nearby the monument, but I can say in the entire region. Everywhere were enthusiastic reactions. It’s something, we as a board should be thankful for.
I told you something about the reason, the background and the symbolism of the monument. My story should be summarized in this message:
Let’s not forget,
- To honor everybody who fought for our freedom and the many who have given the ultimate sacrifice.
- And, to realize that freedom is not self-evident, but asks for responsibility.
Here the speech of eye-witness Pleun de Groot:
It was December 1st, 1943. I was 8 years old. We were between 1 and 2 o’clock of the afternoon with three persons in the cow barn. We heard the loud roaring of plane engines. It was a bomber, shot to pieces, coming from the west and flew very low over our farm. A German fighter followed the bomber, shooting it. Several bullet casings fell down on the yard near the farm. The 20 cows didn’t know how to react; they howled terribly. They were very upset. It seemed to be a miracle that the bomber didn’t crash on the farm. I saw it through the windows of the cow barn, dropping very quickly. The plane went down into the Lek river.
The rescue started. At night, the survivors were taken prisoner by the Germans and brought away. Also these people, our friends, who with thousands of others, fought for our freedom against the Germans. That’s why we are here on September 29th, 2018, to remember that with the family and friends from America. I thank you for that.
In 1954, Frank Pot of ‘de Koophandel’ demolition firm wanted to lift up the plane. With a hoist and a knot around an engine of the plane. The motor broke off the wing and the plane sank back into the depth of the river. The motor with the propeller was thrown in the reeds. Together with other boys we could spin the propeller around
I have been in military service as well in 1955, and lucky enough didn’t experience war. So far, that’s seems to be a miracle from God, as we think about war in the Middle-East and in so many other countries. In Margraten are more than 8.000 American soldiers buried. Also the two men who drowned near Nieuw-Lekkerland, during the rescue efforts. They died in the struggle for freedom. Their sacrifice was not in vain, because the victory was ours.
Let us close with the Bible, God’s words about Job: ‘The Lord has given, the Lord has taken, the name of the Lord be praised.’
Dear friends, I will end my speech now. Get back home very well. I thank you.
Here the speech of eye-witness Anton den Ouden:
As a nine year old boy, I was fishing on December 1st, 1943 in the Lek river, near the Schoonzicht bar. Suddenly I got startled by very low flying planes, shooting at each other in pursuit. I quickly took cover under some steel masts of ships, who were stored near the river.
I went back to the side of the river, to see where they went. They disappeared out of sight, and I only heard some noise and shooting from the other side of the river. So I picked up my fishing-rod and started fishing again.
But they came back, flying lower and with more noise, so I took cover again under the masts. When the planes past by, I quickly took a look, until they disappeared when they were near the “Van Duijvendijk” ship yard. I didn’t see the bomber anymore, but the small fighter was still flying around.
I quickly took my fishing-rod and went home with wet pants on. There came the bad news, my mother didn’t allow me to go fishing in the River again.
Here the speech of Paul Josephson, son of the left flank gunner of the plane:
My family and I would like to thank the Mission Belle, B-17G Memorial Foundation for making this day possible. We would like to recognize John Heuvelman and the Foundation Board of Directors, the people of Nieuw-Lekkerland and Lekkerkerk who rescued the crew, the businesses and people whose contributions made this memorial possible and Bill Yancy, whose work and resources told the story of the Mission Belle.
It’s amazing that nearly 75 years later we are honoring the crew of the Mission Belle; especially when many of us knew none or only one of the ten men. What we all have in common though is an appreciation of and respect for the commitment that these outstanding men made.
I would like to share with all of you a poem written as an in-class assignment by Isabel Brush, waist gunner Carlton Josephson’s great-granddaughter. Isabel was born four months after he died and was 11 years old when she wrote the poem. I believe this poem sums up how we all feel about the men of the Mission Belle.
I never knew my soldier,
But I wish he was mine
He was my great grandfather,
It makes my mother cry
He did not die in war,
But he got shot down
He was captured and
Brought to some strange town
He was starved and beat
They treated him bad
I have only heard stories,
But it makes me feel so sad
My mother was thinking about
Joining in too,
He wouldn’t let her
Cause of all he’s been through
I never knew my soldier,
I feel that he is mine
He was good to all of us
It makes my mother cry
I’m sure Dad and the rest of the crew would be humbled, proud and thankful that you gracious people chose to honor them! Thank you all, and may God bless you.
Here the speech of Gabriel Aguirre, grandson of the sister of pilot Harland Sunde:
Good afternoon everyone,
My name is Gabe, and I am extremely honored to speak on behalf of our family, in honor of our families hero, Capt. Harland Vernon Sunde, Capt. Of the Mission Belle.
We feel very blessed to be able to share this moment with all of you, and especially the family members of the crew of the Mission Belle. Our family is very grateful for the opportunity to celebrate and remember the lives of these 3 men who paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. Men who personified the epitome of what was, and will always be, the greatest generation.
In our family, we have had numerous discussions about what life may have been like had Harland come home from the war. I know for sure he would have been the greatest role model our family could have ever had. Our grandmother would tell us about his entrepreneurial spirit as he opened a small storefront at the age of 18 in the small town of Alberta MN. And of course his love and fascination of flying. One of my grandmothers earlier memories is her mother explaining that at a very young age Harland would cross his fingers and pretend to fly as he tried to say “airplane”. Harland was born to fly, and he did it well!. My grandmother always took comfort in the fact that he was able to do the one thing he loved most, and that was to fly.
We as a family, also feel very gratified in the way he impacted so many other lives in his short time here. Two powerful quotes from the book “We knew we where in for a long day” that will always stand out to us are first, when OD Tully called Harland “The gamest and greatest guy I’ve ever known”. And from Roger Christensen’s letter to my grandmother in which he quoted Harland as saying “I would give my life to save the rest of the fellows in the crew” and “I would die if I knew that the war would end that much sooner”.
These quotes are not just words on a piece of paper, these words are a piece of Harland’s legacy brought forth to us as a gift from the men that knew him best. It is truly remarkable and makes us realize the impact he really had, and although we wish we would have had the chance to have him in our lives, we can’t help but feel a sense of pride knowing the kind of man he was, and the way he lived his life, which was very indicative of the greatest generation.
Myself, my grandmother Dolores Wrobel back home in St. Paul MN, my mother Ero, and brother Roman would like to first off thank God for allowing us the opportunity to share this joyous day together. We would like to thank everyone here in attendance, thank you so much for supporting and enjoying this moment. We would like to especially thank all the family members of Harland’s crew that made the trip from the U.S.. Dolores, Harland’s sister sends her warmest regards to all of you, she is still happy and healthy at the age of 91. We would like to give great thanks to the family who has tended to Harland’s grave all these years, immense gratitude goes to you. Of course we would like to thank the committee for organizing this event and bringing us all together, we definitely appreciate keeping the memory alive! Finally we would like to thank all the people of the Netherlands, but mainly these two communities of Lekkerkerk and Nieuw-Lekkerland for all your hospitality, but also for your towns actions, in the quest for freedom, during the event that unfolded that day Dec. 1st 1943.
Thank you so much, and God Bless!
Here the speech of Colonel Fisher of the U.S. Air Force and Militairy Attaché of the U.S. Embassy:
Mayor, ladies and gentlemen, dear children, good morning! I am honored to be with you all. This is a very special occasion. In order to make sure I speak with the precision worthy of this event and that all our honored guests will understand, I will continue in English.
I would first like to express my deepest appreciation for the families of the brave crew of the Mission Belle who we honor today. Thank you for following the flightpath of your fathers, grandfathers and uncles who came from towns across the United States to serve with courage in foreign lands, including this beautiful country. If you want to know how small the world is, several of these family members whom I just met went to school in the same small town in East Texas where I grew up called Nacogdoches. That is almost as hard to say as Scheveningen.
Seven of these crew members endured captivity and hardship and three of these crew members ultimately sacrificed everything, so we can enjoy the freedoms so abundant to us today. Each year we have ever fewer persons who can share first-hand accounts of what the veterans did here almost 75 years ago like we heard today. Sadly, it is easy to see the war, though not so distant in time, as very distant from the concerns that preoccupy us on a daily basis.
Let me tell each of the American families gathered here today that the Dutch have not forgotten. They have chosen not to forget. To each of our Dutch friends here today, your commitment to preserve the collective memory of the war, including the unveiling of this memorial, is inspiring. I have attended many wartime commemorations during my two and a half years in the Netherlands, including approximately 12 during the last two weeks for Operation Market Garden. Some of the locations were small and some were large, yet despite the pouring rain, thousands of Dutch gathered to honor the sacrifices of the veterans of the United States and her Allies.
The memory of these that will remain strongest for me is the role you always reserve for children, such as those with us here today. As my wife Christie and I have discussed multiple times, we think you do a better job of passing this vital history to the younger generations than we do. It is critical that we continue to integrate our children into these events because in so doing we convey our history, our collective memory, to future generations.
Thanks to the diligent efforts so many incredible Dutch people, such as the Mission Belle Foundation and so many in this community, history will not be silent, and the sacrifices of our fallen service members will not be forgotten. So as someone fortunate enough to inherit this proud legacy of Airmen, and to have flown over the fields of Europe, serving side by side with our Dutch partners, like Colonel Rab who is with us today, I would like to say thank you to all the American family members and friends here, and to all our Dutch friends, zeer hartelijk bedankt voor uw sterke partnerschap, en vooral voor jullie vriendschap.
After the meeting at the Landhoeve, we went to the unveiling location at the dike.
Here the speech at that location by Jim Sweaney, son of the co-pilot:
I would like to thank the good people of Nieuw-Lekkerland for this wonderful memorial to the crew of the Mission Belle. We are truly amazed that after all these years, your community would remember and honor these brave men with this beautiful monument. We're also very pleased to meet the other families of the Mission Belle crew who cherish the memories of their valiant loved ones. World War II brought out the worst of human behavior, but also the best that we can be. In this fast paced world we live in, it's heartening to meet people who respect their history and remember the sacrifices made in the defense of freedom.
The Mission Belle was part of the famous Eighth Air Force. Half of the U.S. Army Air Force's casualties in World War II were suffered by the Eighth Air Force (more than 47,000 casualties, with more than 26,000 dead). During this conflict, Eighth Air Force personnel were awarded seventeen Medals of Honor, as well as 220 Distinguished Service Crosses, 442,000 Air Medals and of course, numerous Purple Hearts.
One of the tasks given the Eighth Air force was the destruction of the German war machine. The 381st Bomb Group was an important part of this, sending wave after wave of bombers to attack the German factories producing war materials. The Mission Belle was shot down on mission #46, after bombing the important ball bearing factories in Leverkusen, Germany.
Like many survivors of war, my father spoke very little of his days as a bomber pilot and prisoner of war until late in his life. He finally opened up a little to my mother, who put together a biography about his life as an aviator. This description of the last flight of the Mission Belle is taken from his story.
Approaching the target, anti-aircraft fire took out engine #3. After dropping her bombs, the Belle desperately headed for the English Channel and safety, losing altitude while fiercely pursued by German Me 109's. The plane was shot up badly, killing tail gunner Healy. Pilot Sunde was wounded so badly that co-pilot Sweaney had to take over, flying out of Germany and ultimately ditching the plane safely in the River Lek. The last Me-109 flew past the downed plane with a wing waggle and salute. The German pilot was identified later as Uffz. Albert Brett, also credited in German records with downing a Spitfire, P-38 and P-47.
Dutch men rescued the survivors who were struggling to get out of the quickly sinking aircraft. Pilot Sunde and turret gunner McCutchen, incapacitated and in shot up Mae West life vests, were swept away and drowned. The others made it into a rubber dingy and Dutch boats, and were carried safely to shore. Unfortunately, the Nazi’s, knowing right where they were, soon came and took the survivors. After days of questioning, they were shipped via train to prison camps in the north and east of Germany. Officers Sweaney, Tully, and Christensen were held in Stalag Luft 1 near Barth for the duration. Carano, England, Josephson, and Culver were sent to Stalag 17-B near Krems, Austria. Generally, the Germans treated officers much better than enlisted men.
POW Camp life was much like the portrayals we've seen in movies. Mostly boring, lots of idle time, cold and drafty quarters, poor clothing and sanitation and very little food. Both American and British officers were held here. The Brits maintained strict military discipline, saluting, uniforms and all, while the Americans were much more casual. All were serious about their duty to resist. Numerous escapes were attempted, and mischief and general sabotage of the camp was common. The Americans delighted in finding ways to annoy their German guards, who were for the most part, elderly men and young boys.
As grim as it was, camp life was not without it's humor. Dad told Mom this very funny story (paraphrasing her words), "Camp sewage was collected by a horse drawn tank wagon with a large hose connected. At the front of the tank was a large pot with a spring loaded lid. The driver would run the hose to the sewage bunker, pour a pint of benzene into the pot and light it. The resulting explosion would blow the pot lid open which would then clang shut, creating a vacuum which would suck the sewage up with a big slurping sound. The funny part was the horse, who knew exactly what was going to happen. When the wagon stopped, he would get nervous and antsy. At the moment of the explosion, the wagon would bounce about in cloud of dust and the horse would rear snort and buck. Then, he would calm down and the wagon would go on to the next station."
In April of 1945, the Germans left quietly and Stalag Luft 1 was liberated by Russian troops who quickly moved on to the front. The prisoners received orders to wait for the Americans, who landed transport planes at a nearby airfield. They were flown to holding camps along the coast near Le Havre, known as the Cigarette Camps. My father was assigned to Camp Lucky Strike. After a few weeks, the troops were transported back the USA via Victory Ships. Dad came home in June, 18 months after the last flight of the Mission Belle.
In closing, we give thanks again to the brave men of the Mission Belle and for all those gallant souls who chose to fight for freedom. We are truly grateful to our Dutch hosts and friends for the honor of this beautiful monument.
After the unveiling, there was a final meeting at 't Waellant.
Here the speech of André Hoogendoorn, chairman of the Mission Belle Foundation:
We are at the end of a day, where we as a foundation worked a long time for. A day that had an emotional influence for our American guests, as well as a lot of other people.
For me it was an impressive day, where “remembrance” and “honoring” stood central. I think that we will not forget this day and the history of the ‘Mission Belle’, that crashed in the Lek river after a fight on December 1st, 1943 very quickly. And that was exactly the goal we wanted to realize for this monument.
We could, by unveiling the monument, uphold the memory of this local piece of history:
- “so we will never forget”.
- But also a tribute to the crew that fought for our freedom.
A tribute for the crew of the ‘Mission Belle’, but also for all the other, mostly young people who have deployed themselves for our freedom and have often given their lives for it.We are, as the board of the Mission Belle B17-G Foundation, thankful that today, almost 75 years ago, the unveiling could take place:
- With so many next of kin of the ‘ Mission Belle’ crew members and
- With so many people who heard about this history or saw it with their own eyes of heard it with their own ears.
We were also very thankful that Mayor van der Borg of the Molenwaard county, Colonel Fisher of the American Embassy and Air Force and Colonel Rab of the Dutch Air Force, kept their schedule free, to be here today and played their part of the ceremony. Thank you for that.
And if we speak about appreciation, I can tell you that we as a board are very thankful to many people. I’d love to thank everyone personally on behalf of the board. But I’m afraid it will be very late if I do that. Many people worked very hard, because they feel that the monument is very important. And not to get personal attention for it. That’s why I will say may thanks especially to groups of people.
We are as board thankful for:
- The enthusiasm, the community had for this initiative.
- The spontaneous cooperation and giving the needed resources by:
o The neighborhood deliberation of Nieuw-Lekkerland
o People who live at the Lek dike, where the monument is placed
o Business people
o Schools and
o You as people from Nieuw-Lekkerland and probably the wide area around this town
Without the enthusiasm and cooperation from you, in any shape or form, this monument could never have been realized.
Also during preparation and organization of this day we got a lot of cooperation. Here were also a lot of people who helped us without any demands and it’s impossible to name everybody. That’s why I would like to thanks on behalf of the board:
- The preparation commission who advised the board with the program of the unveiling. With your work and ideas it became a beautiful and dignified program.
- The people of the Molenwaard county who took care of the fences, flagpoles, wreath holders, and the sound system, but also for your input. Good that you all did this so smooth and quickly.
- The people of the Molenwaard Combination Dike Improvement. Great how they helped us every time we needed them and especially for placing the synthetic driving plates today, so we could put the chairs there and if it should rain, we didn’t have to stand in the mud there.
- The traffic controllers of Jan Kees Boer Transport who helped us during the temporary closing of the Lek dike and organized the traffic very well. The ceremony was dignified and uninterrupted because of your hard work.
- The members of Apollo Music band. You played very beautiful. Your Music was a huge contribution to the atmosphere of the official ceremony. And what most people don’t know, you have placed the chairs and the rostrum this morning.
- The people of the Delware Company. You have given this day a special nuance by using military vehicles and the pople in original uniforms.
- The chauffeurs of the vans. Great that you took care of transporting our American guests. And also great that we could use the vans of the Molenhoeve Farm and Taxi Haars company.
- The people who shared the flyers, so everybody could know the program and had the text of the national anthems.
- The West Alblasserwaard Historical Society, who made the beautiful exposition here at the Waellant location.
- Also the people who were in the background and could give first aid, when necessary.
- And it was very super that we could use this lounge and the coffee that was given by the L&N Smit Foundation, the hot snacks by The Family Restaurant, delivered by Onbezorgd Bezorgd and the drinks by Plus van der Wal.
- And I want to give compliments for the service, as how it was done and how all the appointments were made.
I think that an applause for all those people I just mentioned, should be given.
But there are a few people I should mention:
- Ria Scholten who was here today for the local press and will make a comprehensive report of it.
- The photographer Geert Ouweneel who made photo’s of this day, so we can make a good report of this day on our website.
- And Piet Stout who filmed this day, so that it won’t just be recorded on photo’s, but also on film. It’s very possible that this movie will be released on DVD.
Thanks a lot for doing this without any interest, so we can read and look at this story in the future.
- And of course the board of the Mission Belle B-17G Foundation. I’d like to present the members to you:
o Evert de Bruijn
o Gwendolijne Verheij
o John Heuvelman
o Kees Stam
o Theo Janse
o Wim Hasman
We had together, thanks to mayor Dirk van der Borg, an intensive time. An intensive time, but also a time where I will look at with a lot of pleasure. Thanks to your enthusiasm and effort could this monument be realized and we had today, together with society and the next of kin this beautiful day. I want to thank you very much for this.
And maybe you don’t know yet, but we are not finished. We will go on for a while:
o Making newsletters with a report of this day.
o Organizing the management and maintenance of the monument.
o Trying to collect the last pennies.
My wish is that we can do this with the current team.
And my thanks are not finished without thanking today’s master of ceremony, Peter van der Giessen. Peter, you were very visible as master of ceremony and it was, great in my opinion. But I want to thank you also for the support you gave our board in the last 2 months, in preparation for this day. Including your input, this exciting day was very dignified. Compliments for the professional and easy going way you did this.
We are now at the end of this meeting. For now, thanks for being here today. And a safe trip home.
The remembrance on December 1st, 2018 took place at the monument on the dike:
Here the speech of Majoor van Driesten (preacher Dutch Army):
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is an impressive story, what happened here right behind us and above us, 75 years ago.
How an American bomber fell behind during a mission, became prey to German fighter planes. And how the co-pilot James Sweaney in the end could do not much else than to drop the plane here in the river Lek. Unfortunately they didn’t make it to the safe haven of England.
Impressive also to get acquainted with these men, through reading of the book, and their families, and locals who got involved.
Impressive how young people volunteered to risk their lives far from home for the freedom of others.
Impressive to read how families were torn by grief because their son did not return.
Impressive how those who barely survived, then ended up in German camps, until the end of the war for another year and a half.
WWII was about preserving or regaining humanity in Europe, which was trampled underfoot. The massive killing and deliberate neglect of people in the camps of Nazi Germany.
Today we express our deep respect for the commitment of these men and their families at home.
We are literally silent ......
One part of the story of what happened behind us did not let me go.
Tully describes in his diary how after the crash one German fighter plane kept circling until they had left the aircraft. And how the German pilot once again glided by and gave a nod with the wing as greeting, as a salute. This is how Tully understood the gesture in any case.
This seems a strange phenomenon: that soldiers on the one hand fight each other to death, yet on the other hand they have a certain respect for each other (this also occurred elsewhere in WWII and WWI).
A strange phenomenon, or ... is it precisely here that a small ray of light breaks through in the endless misery of war?
A ray of light, namely, that people do not have to stand against each other for ever, because there is always the possibility to recognize each other as a human being.
Light, that it is conceivable that in another circumstance, another place and time, you would someday even shake hands.
That nod with the wing as a greeting, a strange but hopeful gesture.
That there is always the possibility for us humans to step out of our molded images and meet the other without a prior judgment.
That there is a world imaginable in which we can see in each other a creation of God.
That salute with the wing in the middle of a battle of life and death.
A small ray of light.
I would like to lead you in prayer now.
Eternal God and father, You who have come in Jesus Christ.
We are here today in gratitude that we may be free people.
That we are no longer confined in camps and neglected, that we have abundance of food, that we may serve You in freedom.
Above all, we thank You that You have taken care of us people. When You came on that mission, that started in Bethlehem and ended at Calvary.
Then You reached out to us, pulled us out of the water on dry land, dressed and nourished us, brought us into the realm of Your peace.
We remember the people who died here, and those who came ashore wounded and were taken prisoner. We remember their families.
We pray, bless them with Your comforting presence. And be near to us all, and be our pastor in life. That we focus on the good things of the Gospel.
Go with us, when we go from here. Bless us and make us blessing for each other.