The Netherlands / Audiospot

Venlo Hilton





On March the 1st 1945, the Allies liberate Venlo. The Americans immediately change the name of ‘Venlo Airfield’ to ‘Yankee 55‘. Because the Germans have virtually blown up everything, the Americans quickly create a tented city from scratch, often derisively called the Venlo Hilton. Yet its new residents quickly install all kinds of luxuries.

Since 1941, the German Luftwaffe has been using Venlo Airfield as a major support base in the air war. Fliegerhorst Venlo-Herungen, as the Germans call it, grows into a large and important airfield from which German night fighters operate.

On September the 3rd 1944, the airport is severely damaged by Allied bombing. On September the 5th, the Dutch Prime Minister Gerbrandy implies in a radio broadcast that the Allies have reached Breda. Many German troops panic including the Luftwaffe personnel at Venlo Airfield. They depart in haste. The Allied advance actually takes a few months.

During the liberation of Venlo on March the 1st 1945, the Allies take over the airfield and rename it ‘Yankee 55'. The airfield has to be rebuilt from scratch. When they abandoned the airfield, German demolition units have blown up virtually all the buildings and hangars and disabled the runways.
A tented camp then arises where all the officers, junior officers and men are accommodated. Life during those first weeks is very primitive with trenches dug at the edge of the tented area for toilets and upturned helmets used as washbowls for shaving. Mockingly, the tented city is called the Venlo Hilton.

In the meantime, the pilots make life as pleasant as possible. After all, they are aware that every day could be their last. If they are not flying or sleeping, they ride around on captured motorbikes, plunder and trade goods from the abandoned houses in the area. Or flirt with German frauleins and Russian and Dutch girls and imbibe in homemade distilled spirits.