Five years after what was expected to be the last big celebration of operation manna many veterans once again crossed the ocean to commemorate the food drops together with the Dutch. Hal Province and his wife were present in 1995 as well as in 1985 and for them it was an unforgettable experience.
Frans Cayaux, had been a young Dutch boy when the Allied dropped the food. He had experienced the Hunger winter. He was one of the organizers of the celebrations in 1995. After the celebrations he wrote his experiences down in a letter under the title "A story completed" This letter was published in the newsletter of the British Manna Organization.
The following exerts are from his letter:
"It is surprising that such a short episode in 1945 has had such a sweeping effect on one's life experience. It might be difficult to believe from someone who hardly survived starvation and enemy occupation, but I sincerely consider myself to have been privileged to have been through the whole story, from the beginning to the finale.
I experienced deep darkness. I experienced the full significance of rescue, liberation and freedom. Therefore I am able to understand what Happiness and Luck in Life really mean.
I am a privileged man. And I shall never forget."
Bob Silver; Link in a chain, memories of the 50th Anniversary of Manna and Chowhound
Bob Silver, veteran of the 385th BG, was also present at the commemoration in 1995. He wrote an eighteen-page dairy about his return to Holland, stating that the events during the 50th anniversary changed his life and gave it a new meaning.
The 6st day of our stay in Holland:
A beautiful, small Dutch town on a gorgeous day is a difficult scene to top; On Monday Valkenburg was such a place. As we left the buses in the town square there were a great many children. Most were waving flags, many were holding aloft pictures they had drawn. Showing their versions of the aircraft dropping food.
A helicopter flew overhead showering the town with orange leaflets which illustrated the food drops. So here is the picture: An absolutely gorgeous sunny morning, fruit trees and tulips in full bloom, beautiful children greeting us with flags and banners and the shower of orange leaflets….on balance, not a bad scene at all!
The tenth day of Bob's visit was Liberation day in Holland. Days of seemingly nonstop ceremonies, banquets, dinners and so forth had preceded this day.
'We left the hotel at 9:00 AM for a short ride to a beautiful, wooded park with lakes where we boarded WWII military vehicles for what we were told would be "a parade".
Only the men were in these jeeps and trucks ; as it turned, I was very fortunate to be in a jeep for , as you will see, that placed me "right next" to the people at the curb-side and the women followed in the buses. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and as we left the park at 10:20 AM and began a route which took us toward the center of the City (Rotterdam) there were more and more people at the curb-sides with every block we traveled.
Visualize, if you can, the streets packed with people--first two and three deep, then four and five deep and eventually, near the center of the city, people jammed the curb-side back to the buildings. As we approached each section of the route the applause was constant, the "thumbs up" and "V for Victory" signs, flowers being thrust at us (from individual roses to large bouquets) people saying, through tears, "Thank You, Thank You, Thank You". They had tears as they said it and we did as well; and in all honesty I do again as I share these moments with you. It was the most incredible out-pouring of love and appreciation that one can imagine! IT WAS BEYOND BELIEVE! IT WAS AWSOME!
Because the streets were so packed with people, the parade moved slowly with the result that there were frequent pauses. At these times, it seemed that everyone in the crowd came forward to just "touch" finger-tips or shake hands...and still the tears and the "Thank You's". Our friend from the Rotterdam Police Department informed us that there were over one million people on the streets !
At the City Center, confetti rained down on us from the office buildings. In front of the City Hall there was a reviewing stand with the Commanders of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, The Royal Netherlands Marines and an American Four-Star General (General Jamerson, in charge of the US Air Forces for Europe and the Middle East) and they saluted us. As we approached the reviewing stand and I saw what was occurring, the thought passed through my mind to stand and return the salute (from the jeep) but I decided against that course of action, thinking that if I had lost my balance and fallen from the jeep they would have had to stop the parade and "pick up the old guy" from the streets.'
Frans Cayaux in his letter, 'A story completed':
"An extraordinary moment occurred on Sunday, 1st May on our way to the church in The Haque. At a certain moment we passed the street where I lived as a skinny boy of nine years old and where I saw the lifesaving big bombers flying low over our rooftops on the days before our liberation. There and then I was waving at the same airmen that were sitting with me now in that bus after exactly fifty years! Although I used to comment on many things during our bustrips, having access to the microphone, I did not mention that particular moment pass, overwhelmed by deep emotions."
"My joyful memories of the food drops and the liberation are enriched by the memories of this 50th anniversary in a wonderful way. It is as if the whole story has been completed. It has become a marvelous story. And the commemoration week was the appropriate happy ending"