Wednesday, August 19, 2020

What Was Operation Manna, Operation Chowhound?

Imagine if you will a country starving to death in winter because it’s been in the middle of war for several years.  In September of 1944, the Dutch Queen in exile encouraged her subjects working for the railroad to go on strike as a way of helping the Allies.  In response, the Germans blocked all food and fuel delivers and tore open the dikes resulting in the flooding of farmlands and they blocked all food deliveries. In addition, it was an extremely cold and brutal winter with little food available.

People were reduced to making soup out of hair and what ever else they could find. 

In addition, the Dutch Royal Family living in the United Kingdom appealed to the Allies for help in March 1945.  By April of 1945, it was estimated that half a million Dutch citizens were on the verge of death due to starvation. 

 General Dwight D. Eisenhower came up with the idea to airlift supplies to the Netherlands in response to the Dutch Royal Family.  On April 28th, the first test run, two British planes took off for Operation Manna to take relief supplies to the Netherlands with the understanding the Germans had agreed not to fire anti-aircraft artillery but Eisenhower did not acquire agreement until four days later, two days after Hitler committed suicide.  The name “Operation Manna” came from the biblical reference to manna falling from heaven. In the end the British made 

The British notified the Dutch of the test run and they scrambled to set up landing places and methods of moving the food.  In one location, the horse drawn carts could not get to the drops so they arranged for men to be available to move the food from the landing place to the carts.  Since the Dutch were afraid someone might get hurt during the drops, they set up first aid stations for that possibility. The British began flying regularly on April 29th when 242 planes carried 542 tons of food on the first official day.

The Americans started running flights to Holland.  Both the British and Americans had no idea what they faced because they had to fly as slowly as possible, between 300 to 400 feet above the ground.  These pilots were used to flying faster and higher so it was a challenge. Within a few days, Eisenhower was able to come to an agreement with the German officer in charge of the airspace associated with the corridors these planes flew through.  The agreement required the Germans not to fire the anti-aircraft artillery so the planes could fly safely.  

Over the next two weeks, from April 29 to May 8, 1945, the British and Americans made around 5,500 flights to the Netherlands to deliver 10,000 pounds of food. They dropped 

chocolate bars, margarine, coffee, milk powder, salt, cheese and flour on airstrips and racetracks across the country. The Dutch marked the location of the drop with a huge X made out of bedsheets. Furthermore,  the Dutch looked forward to these delivers, waving handkerchiefs and flags when they happened.

At the height of the operation, the Allies had 900 planes flying each and every day. During the whole operation, only one plane crashed due to a mechanical problem which caused 11 airmen to die.  

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