Operation Manna / Chowhound Brief Synopsis
by William S. Carter
Operation Manna was the code name for the Allied
endeavour in 1945 to feed three million Dutch citizens in
German-occupied western Holland, who were suffering from a
severe food shortage. At the time the International Red Cross
accused the Germans of “planning to starve the Dutch
people to death.” By April 1945, desperate residents
of western Holland had resorted to tulip bulbs as a source
On the morning of 29 April, two Lancaster bombers
were seen near Waardenburg, flying at an estimated height
of less than one hundred feet above the ground. Instead of
bombs, they dropped food parcels from the open bomb bays of
their aircraft. This event was witnessed by a teenager on
his way to steal food from the Germans – a crime punishable
by death. The sight of the Lancaster bomber flying so low
to the ground with some of the crew waving in friendly greeting
to him, was something the young man vowed to remember –
and if possible memorialize.
A Lancaster lets go
of its food load 50' up.
The British government had received permission
from the German authorities in Holland to fly a specific route
and release their loads at a precise location. After guinea
pig testing the peaceful conclusion of their mission resulted
in the return that afternoon of hundreds more bombers carrying
foodstuffs for the Dutch.
From April 29 to May 7, 1945, inclusive, RAF
Bomber Command delivered 6672 tons of food to the people of
western Holland. No. 1, 3 and 8 (Pathfinder). Groups flew
a total of 2835 Lancaster sorties and 124 Mosquito sorties.
In July 1997, Peter Buttenaar, the teenager
who risked his life to steal food from the Germans and now
a developer with his own construction company, dedicated a
housing development in Southampton, Ontario, to one of the
two Lancaster crews who had bravely tested both Germans’
defenses and resolve. He called the street into the housing
site Lancaster Road and he named each of the seven other streets
after a crew member.
The grateful Dutch
sorting the boxes.
The story of Operation Manna is more than just
an account of the “…largest single air transport
operation of the war…” it is a remarkable tribute
to the courage and suffering of the Dutch, and a grim reminder
of the inhumanity of war and depravity of humans that made
measures necessary in the first place.
Operation Manna / Chowhound
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