B-17 Flying Fortress Operation Chowhound AVRO Lancaster

 

Lt. Joseph R. (Bob) Belgam


Belgam was pilot on the "Diplomat II" a B-17 of the 569th Squadron 390th Bomb Group. On his crew were the following persons: Jos Bikofski (co-pilot), R. Drew (Navigator), Lt. R. Sleeper (Bombardier), W. Szymczak (Engineer), R. Burns Radio Operator, N. Lauro (Wing-gunner), R. Nicol (Belly-gunner), W. Johnson  ( Top-turret-gunner) and Wilbur Hill (Crew Chief).

Bob participated in three food drops. The first one was on the second of May. He says he didn't learn about the Chowhound operation and/or the situation of the Dutch population before the briefing for his first flight, in the morning of May 2nd. At the briefing Belgam learned that the target for that day was Schiphol. Schiphol is an airfield located near Amsterdam. He learned that it was still under German occupation and that a truce had been reached with the Germans. He doesn't recall leaving the ammunition home for these flights, but this must probably been seen in the knowledge that Belgam was not a gunner and so not confronted with this part of the truce.

Bob was very enthusiastic about the fact that they were going to drop food for the starving Dutch population.

He says the following about the flight:
We took off from our regular base , Station 153 which had been constructed on a farm in the small town of Parham, near Framlingham in East Anglia, northeast of Ipswich. We were assigned to drop flying in loose, low-level formation. We had no trouble finding the drop zones, they were clearly marked. We came in low enough to see the expressions on the faces of the people who were in the fields. It gave us a real thrill to watch these people as they waved and cheered us on. Of course we couldn't hear them over the noise of our engines, but on their faces you could see they yelled their lungs out. I can speak for the whole crew when I say it brought a lump to our throats. At that time we knew little about the plight of the Dutch people, so we could only imagine what horror it would me to live under the Nazi regime for five years.

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  Created by Eric Heijink, Enschede, The Netherlands, operatiemanna@gmail.com