April 20, 2017

1944. "Nazi Bombers Hit Eindhoven" by Walter Cronkite

Liberation Celebration Cut Short
"A convoy of Allied lorries under enemy artillery and mortar fire on the road between Son and Eindhoven, Holland," September 20, 1944 (source)
Bill Downs and Walter Cronkite were trapped during a Nazi air raid on Eindhoven in the Netherlands in September 1944.

From the Mason City Globe-Gazette, September 22, 1944, p. 5:

Liberation Celebration Cut Short by Raid


Eindhoven, Holland, Sept. 20 — (Delayed) — (U.P.) This debris-littered town of 100,000, whose celebration of liberation by the allies was cut short by a German air raid, dug out Wednesday after its worst beating of the war—but still believing the price of freedom was not too high.

Sixty-five of the inhabitants were killed, 150 wounded seriously, and damage was estimated in millions of dollars.

Site of an important radio works, Eindhoven had known air raids before, both Germans and allied. None matched the one Tuesday night for suddenness and savagery.

Thirty minutes before the raid, crowds were cheering American and British soldiers who entered the town Monday afternoon.

Dutch flags which had been brought out of hiding after 4 years to fly for 24 gay, care-free hours along with bunting in bedecked streets, hung in burned shreds Wednesday from charred poles.

Streets where children had danced to accordion music, where crowds jammed around American traffic vehicles so thickly that traffic was halted were strewn with glass, brick, stone, and cherished possessions.

The anticlimax to the celebration came between 7 and 8 p.m.

A rumor, one that had been smouldering all afternoon, spread through the hilarious crowds that a German armored column was moving to counter-attack the town. The number of tanks grew in the telling from 3 to 117.

Actually some tanks did get through to within shelling distance of the main armored corridor and dropped a few rounds near a road north of here before they were eliminated.

As the rumors mounted, army quarters took them seriously and part of the troops were evacuated.

I was dining with Bill Downs of CBS at a hotel near the center of the city when I first noted panicky civilians outside running toward their homes. Then we learned part of the army had been ordered out and we started for headquarters.

We drove through an almost deserted city. From some of the windows the Dutch, fearful of German return, had removed flags and pictures of Queen Wilhelmina.

Most of the American and British troops seemed to be gone. A few civilians stood wonderingly before houses. They no longer cheered nor wore the carnival hats and funny false noses of a short while ago.

Just before we reached headquarters a lone German twin-engined bomber dropped orange, yellow and green flares.

The town was without air raid shelters so we sped toward the open country. We got only as far as the town park before the first bombers arrived.

We lay on the ground while the bombs ringed us and explosions within 100 feet showered us with twigs, branches and dirt. Shrapnel clipped through the leaves above. Ammunition exploded in deafening bursts followed by the eerie scream of the shrapnel whistling overhead.

Eindhoven was paying the fiddler.

Wednesday cheerfulness was returning to the town. As the allies pushed on toward the front, the inhabitants took time to look up from their brooms and shovels, smile and shout "hello."