The airwar over Holland and the impact on Giessenlanden

The map above clearly shows the strategic position of the Netherlands regarding the airwar for the Germans as well as the Allies. To reach the targets in German industrial Ruhr area and northern Germany a route over Holland had to be taken.

Soon after the Dutch surrendered on May 15th 1940 the German occupier started to transfer Luftwaffe units to former Dutch airbases and a sophisticated network of radar and anti-aircraft batteries were established. From these airfields day and nightfighters successfully intercepted and attacked the large formations of Allied bombers. In the summer of 1942 also American units entered the air war but it would take till 1943 before the allies were able to intensify the strategic bombardments. In March 1943 the “battle of the Ruhr” started in which strategic targets in the industrial Ruhr area were attacked. Heavy losses were incurred which becomes obvious when looking at the dates of the in Giessenlanden.

German map deatialing radarstations and airfields in the Netherlands

In the area of Holland which is called rivierenland or the land of the rivers an important role was played by the German radar station “Gorilla” near Schoonrewoerd (visible on the map above in the middle) From here the formations of allied bombers were picked up with the Würzburg radar after which German day and nightfighters were directed to these formations. On the picture below of the wreck of Halifax JB801 Luftwaffe soldiers can be seen, it is very well possible that these are soldiers from the Schoonrewoerd radar station posing in front of their trophy. The commander of this station was a hard-line Nazi called Oberleutnant Klaus Degler who was involved in the execution of 14 civilians from the village of Wamel. Although this is not directly related to the six planes and the memorial the report the police made in 2007 is worth reading. Below a part from the report:

 

“After some time this witness saw that all went though the corridor and stopped in front of the wall. One of the German, presumably an officer stood in front of the 14 civilians and said “You have fired”. The civilians denied this but then he took his machinegun which was hanging in front of his body and shot all 14 civilians. When all were lying on the ground he kicked the bodies and sprayed them again with bullets after which he said “These people will never shoot again” Witness saw this through a gap of his window near the place where the people were shot

According to this witness the officer wore a camouflage trench coat and was between 35 and 40 years old.

 

 

Würzburg Riese Radar

Remains of the radar at Schoonrewoerd

1943 was the turning point in the air war, the range of allied fighters increased dramatically due to the use of external fuel tanks enabling the fighters to escort bombers into Germany. The P-47 and P-51 which came down at Giessen-Oudekerk were on a bomber escort mission.

 

The German war industry and cities were systematically destroyed. German airfields in Holland suffered heavy attacks from bombers and the role of the Luftwaffe in Holland decreased dramatically. Allied bombers and fighters now reined the skies over Holland

 

A view of the increased range of allied fighter escort

1943 proved to be a dramatic and decisive year for the air war and also for the villages in the Giessenlanden municipality. The six planes left a lasting impression.