Operation Manna & Chowhound
As World War II raged in late 1944, conditions in the occupied Netherlands began to deteriorate. In retribution for strikes during the Allies' Operation Market Garden in September 1944, the Germans began cutting food shipments to Dutch cities. This combined with severe, cold weather led to the specter of widespread starvation in early 1945. Though food shipments from neutral countries such as Sweden and Switzerland aided the situation, the "Hunger Winter" continued. In April, with the situation critical, the Dutch royal family approached the Allies seeking help for their countrymen.
Meeting with Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Prince Bernhard asked the American to negotiate a temporary truce so that food could be air dropped over the western Netherlands. Lacking the power to negotiate with the Germans, Eisenhower referred the prince to his political superiors. Meeting with Winston Churchill, Bernhard found the British prime minister skeptical, but willing to move forward. President Franklin D. Roosevelt offered no objections as long as their Soviet allies were allowed to participate in the truce talks.
Though unable to operate on his own, Eisenhower ordered Air Commodore Andrew Geddes to begin planning an aerial relief effort. For the operation, Geddes would have access to three groups from Air Marshal Arthur Harris' Bomber Command as well as three wings from the US Eighth Air Force. On April 23, Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall authorized Eisenhower to reach out to the Germans regarding a temporary truce in the Netherlands. Proceeding, Eisenhower ordered a message broadcast over the BBC and Radio Orange stating that Allied bombers would be coming on a mission of peace to deliver food
Receiving the message, Reichskommissar Arthur Seyss-Inquart, the German governor of the Netherlands, began meeting with Dutch organizers to determine drop zones and food distribution. In addition, he opened communications with the Supreme Headquarter Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) so that negotiations could begin. Meeting at Achterveld, Allied leaders presented Geddes' plan to the Germans under the belief that they would readily accept it. Finding that Seyss-Inquart had not empowered the delegation to approve or discuss SHAEF's proposal, the Allies informed them that drops would commence the next day.
Dubbed Operation Manna, Royal Air Force began relief flights early on April 29. Flying Lancaster bombers at low altitude, the test flight was a success and was not fired on by the Germans despite the lack of an official truce. Learning this, Geddes began the full-scale operation later that day with aircraft from Groups 1, 3, and 8. Drop zones at Leiden, The Hague, Rotterdam, and Gouda were marked by Mosquitoes from 105 and 109 Squadrons. While the flights continued, both sides met again on April 30. Attending in person, Seyss-Inquart agreed to a truce and to increase the number of drop zones to ten on May 2.
The next day, American B-17s joined effort under the name Operation Chowhound. Prevented from starting flights on April 28 due to poor weather, the arrival of the American aircraft doubled the amount of food reaching the Netherlands each day. Continuing through the surrender of Germany on May 8,
Operations Manna and Chowhound delivered 6,680 and 4,000 tons of food respectively. On the ground, Dutch teams gathered to distribute it to the starving population, though due to travel difficulties this sometimes took up to ten days.
Though the Germans largely withheld their fire, both operations sustained some losses as three aircraft were lost, two to a collision and third to an engine fire.
Quo Fata Vocant-Whither the Fates call