Air battles over Flevoland. Part 2: Crash above the IJsselmeer and pilots help

“It was a known fact that if you helped an airman during the war, you were lined up against the wall and shot"

The story of the salvage officer who was involved in the salvage of, in particular, Allied aircraft wrecks in the Flevoland polders.

Dinah Might

USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress (baptized ‘Dinah Might' by its crew), that made a crash landing in the North Eastern Polder on 10th February 1944. Eventually, the entire crew of ten ended up in a POW camp (Batavialand, Th. Nieuwburg Collection).

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Crashing over the IJsselmeer

Talking about the IJsselmeer, during the war no more than some 160 aircraft crashed in that area. Insiders know about these crashes. Via the internet more information can be found. However, the internet only gives the numbers of crashes, not the exact location. If a plane crashed into the sea, they could never pinpoint the exact crashplace. Oil leaked into the sea and pieces of wreckage floated to the surface but the aircraft smashed on impact. It fell from above, and on hitting the water fully disintegrated. Pieces lying scattered over a very large area. A lot of people are missing there. I have a list of the lifeboats of Lemmer, Enkhuizen and Hindeloopen, who were regularly commissioned to search for certain things including the airmen of the aircraft. The fishermen from Elburg, Harderwijk and Makkum often took men on board when they were found, and their bodies brought ashore. A lot of bodies washed ashore at Urk, but also brought to land by the fishermen.

Pilots Help

Those crashed on land were clearly visible, the point of impact was known straight away. You could see the bits and pieces, the wreckage on the ground. In the Noordoostpolder men were already working, so they knew. The ground was softer there, but everything that ended up in the Noordoostpolder was known, and removed after the war. There have been three emergency landings in the polder. The “Dinah Might”, later yet another B-17 and a B-24. Sometimes the aircraft came down into the water but the boys with their parachutes in the polder.

Airmen didn’t have personal weapons. Only money and things to pay for any help they might need, for clothes and things like that. It was a known fact that if you helped an airman during the war, you were lined up against the wall and shot. The airmen became a prisoner of war. That was the difference. There never was any "but". The Germans maintained this attitude until the end.

Nonetheless, a lot of airmen have been helped by the Dutch, even in the polder. The NOP was the Dutch Hiding Paradise. People forget today but back then, that reed! I worked a lot with the reed in Flevoland It was, believe it or not, three- four meters high. All you could see was reed! You could do so many things in amongst the reed. Even the Germans thought twice before going in, for they knew only to well that found by some Dutch who might like to spirit away them without anyone noticing it, they would do. Of the boys who ended up in the polder, most were taken prisoner. The chances of escaping on land were small. Yet in the Netherlands there were still quite a lot who escaped with the help of the Dutch, but ... yes, it could have been a more. But again, as a civilian you had to be very careful.

Pilot lines (escape routes)

There wasn’t really a pilot line in Flevoland. However, in Friesland and the surrounding area’s there was. There were also contacts with people , who might be able to hide someone for a while. I’m certain they did this. But a particular route ... there was hardly anything there.

There were some places in the Noordoostpolder where the Germans didn’t go to, but the difficulty was how to get the airmen out from there? A boat to Enkhuizen? Probably. I know of one crewmember from a Liberator which crashlanded in the Noordoostpolder and later hided here (near Baarn]. So it was possible, but it wasn’t widely used. Less than for example in Friesland, but still seven men. The old country had more hide-out opportunities and connections were better. This was a problem in the Noordoostpolder. There were no roads yet. I still remember the times I went into the polder with some sort of snowboards my boots.

Source: Batavialand, interview by Lenie Bolle with Gerrie Zwanenburg, 16th September, 2009.

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