The Netherlands / Monument
On Tuesday 12 September 1944, men of the 117th regiment of the 30th American infantry division (Old Hickory) crossed the Dutch border near Mesch in the late morning. By 14:30, they had liberated the entire village. Units of the 119th Regiment and the 125th Artillery Squadron (both also part of the Old Hickory) reached Noorbeek, a few kilometres east, by the end of the afternoon. Both Mesch and Noorbeek believed that they were the first to be liberated.
In his standard work 'The Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Second World War', Dutch historian Loe de Jong gives Noorbeek the honorary title of 'first liberated place in The Netherlands'. The uncertainty about which Dutch village was liberated first, Noorbeek or Mesch, will remain. Detailed studies, however, suggest that the hamlet of Laag-Caestert near Eijsden has the best claim to the title.
Why so much uncertainty? A major cause has to do with language confusion. Is it a hamlet, a village or a municipality? Mesch, for example, was annexed to Eijsden in 1943 and had lost its status as an independent municipality at the time of liberation. Since Eijsden was liberated one day later, the liberation of Mesch is therefore absent from official documents.
The archives of the former municipality of Noorbeek contain a document that shows that mayor Joseph Nahon raised the Dutch flag at the town hall at 17:30. Although there was still shooting at the edge of the village, Nahon was the first mayor to send a telegram to the queen to announce the liberation of his village. That is the reason why there are liberation monuments in Mesch as well as in Noorbeek, both of which claim to have been the first to be liberated.
Such a monument may well have been erected in the village of Mheer as well. About 2.5 hours after the telegram from Noorbeek, the mayor of Mheer, Jan Beckers, sent a message to the same effect to Queen Wilhelmina. At the time the telegram was sent from Noorbeek, the last skirmishes were still taking place there, while Mheer was completely cleared of Germans.