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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Operation Chowhound: The Most Risky, Most Glorious US Bomber Mission of WWII by Stephen Dando-Collins | LibraryThing

I received a free  advanced reader's ebook (lots of editing yet to do) in return for an honest appraisal.

This is the rather extraordinary story of an operation that saved many lives in Holland following the harsh winter of 1944-1945. The winter was harsh on the Germans as well who had barely enough food for themselves. An appeal from the Dutch government in exile to Franklin Roosevelt--Roosevelt was rather proud of his Dutch ancestry (the British were not particularly helpful)-- resulted in his request to Eisenhower to help the Dutch.  He died before anything concrete could be done.   Once the operation was approved, the problem became how to deliver the supplies. Eisenhower and his chief of staff Bedell Smith took over the operation and following extensive negotiations, the Nazi governor of Holland  ordered the troops not to fire on the low flying bombers who were dropping food from as low as three hundred feet.

But the story is more complicated. It involved Operation Market Garden, a Monty flop mostly due to his failure to trust Prince Bernhard, German born and ex-Nazi, but now married to the heiress to the Dutch throne.  Bernhard had become a vigorously loyal Dutch advocate whose contacts with the Dutch resistance provided information that could have prevented the disaster at Arnhem. The result of Market Garden was to leave western Holland in the control of the Germans and isolated.  The Germans, by this time, perhaps all but Hitler, realized the war was lost, but Hitler had refused to pull German troops out of Holland and he had issued a "destroy everything" order through Albert Speer.  Speer was reluctant to enforce it, as was the German governor,  Arthur Seyss-Inquartwho was willing to help the Dutch for his own reasons.

This book is not for everyone.  It's a very detailed look at the negotiations and diplomacy required to pull off a rescue mission that saved many lived in Holland.  It's also an interesting view into the lives of Germans who knew the war was lost and the actions they took in response to that knowledge.  For historians or those interested in events of the last year of the war, it's a gold mine. 

Audrey Hepburn plays a minor role in the author's portrayal of Dutch suffering during the winter.

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