Niederlande / Geschichte

The true meaning of Freedom




Colonel Frank Krebs, commander of the 440th Troop Carrier Group, was sitting at the controls of the Dakota C-47 Stoy Hora, with co-pilot Major Howard Cannon next to him. Both American fighters played a heroic role during D-day: on 6 June 1944 they dropped paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division in Normandy from their Dakota and then returned safely to their home base in Nottingham. These events signalled the start of the Allied advance in Europe.

On Sunday 17 September 1944 many inhabitants of Hoeven set off to church, as they did every week, not knowing what awaited them that day. At around one o’clock in the afternoon the airspace filled up with an endless stream of planes. They were there for operation Market Garden. In the Dakota C-47 Stoy Hora pilots Krebs and Cannon were reliving D-day; once again they dropped paratroopers, this time from the 82nd Airborne Division and near the town of Nijmegen. But instead of returning safely to their home base in Nottingham, they were shot at near Breda. A failed flight for the two pilots and their four-man crew. 

Eyewitnesses Piet Reijnders, Fientje Snepvangers and Marcel Pieterse saw the Dakota make an emergency landing near Hoeven. The crashed Dakota was still almost completely intact. There were no weapons in the plane, but to the surprise of the increasingly large crowd of curious onlookers it turned out to be filled with delicacies. Delicacies which quickly disappeared into pockets and stomachs. When the German patrols later found the Dakota, the aircraft had been long empty.

Meanwhile, the crew managed to get to safety in time by jumping out of the plane with parachutes. “While we were gliding in the wind, German patrols started shooting at us from the ground. It was not very pleasant, to put it mildly,” Howard Cannon said afterwards. The crew of the Dakota was taken in and hidden by Dutch resistance fighters. On 21 September, dressed in Dutch military police uniforms, they were put in a motorcycle sidecar and driven through busy enemy traffic to the V & D department store in Breda. On 24 September Howard Cannon wrote a letter to his parents: “The people here are so friendly, we will never be able to repay them.” Meanwhile the Dakota crew was waiting in the department store attic for a chance to escape from occupied territory. When it became too dangerous at V & D, the pilots were housed with various town residents by the Breda resistance. Weeks later, the pilots were taken to a hiding address in Wernhout by brothers Charles and Frans Marijnissen. Soon after their arrival Wernhout was liberated; after 42 days in hiding the pilots were reunited with the Allied troops. In December 1944 Krebs and Cannon visited the Dakota near Hoeven, North Brabant had already been largely liberated by then.

“When I left the Netherlands, I sensed I had accomplished far more than our original mission. I had learned from the ‘defeated’ the true meaning of freedom and how we must never give up fighting for it,” Howard Cannon said in an interview with newspaper De Telegraaf on 27 May 1961. By then Cannon was a Democrat senator in Nevada. He had received many military awards during his military career between 1941 and 1946. Cannon died in 2002 at the age of 90 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honours.

The stories of the pilots Howard Cannon and Frank Krebs and the Dakota C-47 Stoy Hora are part of the ‘D-Day Experience’ wing of the D-Day Paratroopers historical centre at Saint-Come-du-Mont in Normandy, which was opened in 2015. The exhibit also includes a fully restored replica of the Stoy Hora which has been converted into a flight simulator. One of Howard Cannon’s daughters donated a photo album that her father and the other crew members made during the liberation of Europe. Krebs’ family donated the log book from the June 6 flight to the museum.

This story was part of Brabant Remembers, a campaign for 75 years of Freedom in the province of North Brabant.

Achter 't Hof, Hoeven