Operation Chowhound

This was the US counterpart of the British 'Manna' (iii) to deliver urgently needed food by air to the starving population of part of the German-occupied Netherlands (1/8 May 1945).

Some 10 bombardment groups of Major General Earle E. Partridge’s 3rd Air Division flew 2,268 sorties to deliver a total of 4,000 tons of food. Within this effort, 400 of the aircraft dropped 800 tons of K-rations between 1 and 3 May onto Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

The need for 'Chowhound' and 'Manna' (iii) arose from the fact that the German forces in the western part of the Netherlands had been cut off by the British and Canadian advances past them into the North German plain. The tactical flooding of the Dutch countryside by the Germans combined with the disrupted nature of local communications to aggravate a situation in which the Dutch population of the region had been reduced to starvation level. The Allies arranged with the Germans, through neutral sources, for food supplies to be dropped from the air, and the US participation was allocated to the 3rd Division. Special routes and dropping points were designated, outside of which the Germans would not guarantee the supply aircraft undisputed passage.

On 1 May, 396 B-17 aircraft departed over the Suffolk coast of eastern England, descending to 500 ft (150 m) on reaching the Netherlands and unloading more than 700 tons of rations over two airfields and a race track at The Hague, and an open space near Rotterdam.

There was some fear that the German anti-aircraft gunners might not keep the agreement, but all went well. Over the next six days, excluding 4 May, supply missions of similar strength were flown. The flights were not considered as combat sorties, and the only credits given were to the crews of 15 Flying Fortress bombers of Colonel George Y. Jumper’s 385th Bombardment Group who apparently wandered into a Flak area.

The crews involved in the 'Chowhound' missions sometimes included ground crews, who took the opportunity to have their first view of the European continent and went along to push out ration boxes. Three aircraft were lost during the undertaking, two of them colliding . The third took place on the last 'Chowhound' mission, when a B-17G of Lieutenant Colonel Robert H. Stuart’s 95th Bombardment Group suffered an engine fire. As this threatened to engulf the whole aeroplane, the pilot ditched in the North Sea but hit a swell, the bomber breaking up and sinking almost immediately. The air/sea rescue service pulled two men out of the water, but only one of them survived.