It was in May, 1945 that Lt. Alfred Isaac wrote to his parents in Cincinnati, Ohio of the greatest mission he had ever flown. This mission though was quite different from others he had undertaken against the Germans in World War II.
This flight was to help provide food to the millions of people in the Netherlands who were suffering from hunger under Nazi occupation.
Isaac wrote, "Thousands of Dutch people were dying of starvation each day… We didn't get mission credit for this flight but it made a lump in our throats to see the appreciation on the faces of those people. That is all the credit I want."
U.S. and British planes dropped brought food to millions in the Netherlands who had suffered through the Hunger Winter of 1944-1945 under Nazi occupation. (National Archives photo)
The food drops to the Netherlands were a joint effort of British and American planes. Canadian truck convoys would follow days later bringing more food. Agreement was reached with the German occupiers to allow these food missions in the final days of the war in Europe. The war with Germany officially came to an end shortly thereafter.
The food aid to the Netherlands offers numerous lessons. The first is the idea of multiple nations working together to aid a country in need, as the British, Americans, and Canadians did in distributing the food to the hungry. Another is the idea of planning for relief operations. The Netherlands missions could not go off without advance planning and stockpiling of food. This was not without difficulties. For instance, food depots reserved for the Netherlands were raided for Belgium relief efforts, and needed to be restored.
Another lesson is the connection between hunger and national security. General Eisenhower’s Joint Intelligence Committee issued a report on the consequences of a hungry population in the Netherlands and its potential effect on military and political situations. Hunger and malnutrition come with conflict and can be more destructive than the armies themselves.
It was 65 years ago that the food drops to the Netherlands ushered in the transition from fighting the Nazi war machine to taking on the enemy of hunger. Food was to become the foundation for winning the peace in Europe.
See the Cincinnati Post article (May 8, 1945) on the food air drops to the Netherlands.
Food for the Netherlands: