A short, ten-minute documentary I co-wrote and co-produced will air on Mississippi Public Broadcasting on Thursday, June 6, at 7pm CST.
Here’s the story:
On May 10, 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, driving its government into exile. The Dutch military retreated to its holdings in the South Pacific, but were forced to retreat to Australia when the Imperial Japanese advanced against the East Indies in February of 1942. Fearing yet another invasion and facing a shortage of war material, the air forces of the Dutch East Indies Army and the Dutch Navy began searching for a safe place to train their pilots.
They chose Jackson, Mississippi.
Hundreds of Dutch and Indonesian personnel and their families arrived in Jackson by train from San Francisco on the night of May 7, 1942. They set up camp at the Jackson Army Airbase at Hawkins Field and were quickly welcomed by a curious public. Speeches and parades followed, along with dozens of dances where some cadets and officers met their future Southern brides. Many of these widows and their descendants still reside in Mississippi today.
The Dutch fliers were patriots without a country, but for a time, Mississippi was their home. Unfortunately, many died in training accidents and were buried at Cedarlawn Cemetery in sacred earth designated as Dutch soil. In 1943, a monument designed by one of the pilots was erected in honor of these brave men’s memory.
On February 8, 1944, the Dutch lowered their flag over Jackson and returned to the fight in Europe and the Pacific. As the war waned, many Mississippi brides joined their Dutch husbands in far-flung corners of the earth. Some witnessed the horrors of Japanese concentration camps in Java while others waded through Holland’s bombed-out rubble. Little opportunity was left in the old world. As the Japanese left Java, riots and revolution raged, slowly driving the Dutch from their Indonesian colonies. Many of the pilots and their families returned to the United States. Some made their way back to Jackson, and a few even trained new European pilots at Mississippi airbases.
Our short film focuses on our interviews with three Mississippi natives – widows of Dutch pilots who fought in the skies over Europe and the Pacific. It’s a love story, and at times, a quite tragic one, but it illustrates how true love can withstand great distances in both space and time.
Tune in if you can, and I’ll post the link once the film appears on MPB’s website.
This is just the beginning. We hope to eventually produce a full-length documentary with national distribution telling the whole story of the Royal Netherlands Military Flying School and the great, enduring friendship between Jackson and the Dutch.