23rd April 1945, a convoy of lorries made their way through Norfolk’s narrow lanes towards Thorpe Abbotts. What they were carrying was secret, but not deadly. The sleek metal containers were designed to carry supplies. Ground crews had been briefed on how to load these containers. Air crews were given training in low level flying and how to drop these strange cylinders, dropping them over the runways. On the 25th April, the containers were loaded with food, and crews were briefed on their secret mission; dropping food to the Dutch.
They were told that there were thousands of people in Holland dying of starvation due to the German army looting all the food in their retreat. However, thanks to some negotiations, there was a truce. As long as the bombers stuck to a set heading and height, the Germans would allow food to be dropped to the Dutch population at designated zones. The crews could only have one shot at dropping the food, and were not allowed to take any hostile actions against the Germans.
The missions were not classed as combat missions, and many ground crew flew along to assist with the dropping of food. Several crew members added chewing gum, chocolate, oranges and anything else they thought would be appreciated by the Dutch. These packages were much appreciated by the Dutch, and the missions seem to have been flown exclusively by B17s. The British were also involved in this effort, their version being called Operation Manna.
The 100th Bomb Group dropped their contributions between 1st May 1945 and 7th May 1945, and their ‘targets’ were Valkenburg, Hilversum, Shiphol, and Alkmaar. It is difficult to say how much food was dropped during this period, but the gratefulness of the Dutch is enduring.