"You see like little matchsticks flying out and you suddenly realize as you rapidly approach them that those are men. Your cannon shells and bullets are just hitting them and throwing them out of there with the impact."
Into the Netherlands
We came down on this target which was the Panzer Group with some of the SS [Waffen SS] to support them. And it was a primary target because if they got there, they were coming as reinforcements. So the normal method is we would bomb the front and bomb the back to trap the column. And then we could dispose of it at our leisure, so to speak. Any marching troops would then run for shelter into the trees and bushes, whatever, or lie flat in the trenches if there was no local cover. And that’s when we really, having bombed the convoy and shot it up as much as we could, the actual vehicles, then if you have any bullets or shells left, you go after the troops, right. Those are the guys you really want to go after, the SS troops. We worked those over really good.
And the smoke going up and debris and stuff and by the time we peeled off, it’s just black smoke everywhere. And this was my first introduction into really seeing that you were killing people. When you start firing at the wagons, you see like little matchsticks flying out and you suddenly realize as you rapidly approach them that those are men. Your cannon shells and bullets are just hitting them and throwing them out of there with the impact. So you give it to them with everything you’ve got and there’s no remorse, believe you me. It’s excitement; you want to get these guys. You don’t want any of them to get away.
The Dutch country roads are narrow, just like the French country roads, narrow, two lanes. And the Dutch, they rode everywhere on bicycles. Everywhere, right in their towns, everything was bicycles. There was no gasoline available. So everyone went on bikes, those that had bikes. The Germans commandeered a lot of their bikes at the early stage but they had still a lot of them with bikes. So they would take their family and everyone on their bikes and they’d go riding, particularly on the weekends down these roads behind the lines and this particular group, there was I guess a bunch of families riding together and they had some of their younger kids with them on their little bikes. And as we went by, we’d waggle our wings as if to say “Hi!” They’d get excited and they’d start to wave at you and the bikes would waver. And this poor little kid I guess must have wavered and bumped into his parents’ bikes or somebody’s bike and he fell off his little bike. So by the time I came abreast, he was just getting back on and he started waving, you know, before he even got on the bike. And it was amazing, emotional to see it. It was emotional, yeah. Because they had been through a lot, the Dutch had been through a lot.