We will be exploring Mississippi’s rich aviation history in this series. From early flight photographs to the moon landing and beyond, MDAH collections document this exciting part of our past.
The Dutchmen at Jackson Army Air Base. Call Number: Z/0839.001/S (MDAH Collection)
The story of the Flying Dutchmen has become a kind of legend in Jackson. It doesn’t show up in most history books, but if you ask any of our older residents, chances are they’ll tell you stories about them flying under power lines and the like. But what really happened in 1942? Who were the “Flying Dutchmen” of Jackson? Much of this information can be found in the MDAH collection! Here’s the story:
Near the beginning of World War II, Hitler’s Germany overran the Netherlands, and later its colony, the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia) was conquered by the Japanese as they attacked southeast Asia, the Philippines, and the Indonesian archipelago. The Dutch were without a home, and more importantly for the war effort, without training bases for their armed forces. This is where Jackson, Mississippi, comes into the story. The Dutch needed a base for a flying school, and General Henry Arnold (head of the U.S. Army Air Force) obliged, choosing Jackson as the new home of the Royal Netherlands Military Flying School.
Old Terminal (c. 1936) at Hawkins Field in 2008
The city was already home to the Jackson Army Air Base at Hawkins Field when the Dutchmen arrived in May 1942, many with their wives and children in tow. Jackson became an international city literally overnight, as the foreign-speaking Dutch and native Indonesians wandered the streets and explored their new home. They delighted in shopping and eating in restaurants, pleasures that were hard to come by in war-ravaged Europe and the Pacific.
The Dutch fliers trained here for nearly two years, and during that time formed warm attachments with the locals, who reciprocated in kind. Some of the Dutchmen married Jackson girls and settled down in Mississippi after the war. Over thirty Dutchmen who were killed in training accidents are buried at Cedarlawn Cemetery in Jackson. Several of airmen and one widow have been buried there in more recent years.
Memorial Day ceremony at Cedarlawn Cemetery in 2009
The monument at the Dutch plot reads: Voor Hen Die Vielen (For Those Who Fell) and lists the fliers killed in training accidents.
Their story has been somewhat forgotten in the annals of Mississippi history, but it is one of Jackson’s hidden treasures, documented here at the archives.
“Dutchman Row” street sign near Hawkins Field
Barber (Bette E.) Photograph Collection. MDAH call number Z/0839.001/S.
The Clarion Ledger, 1942-44. On file at MDAH.
“Dutch in Jackson,” subject file, MDAH.
Jackson Army Air Base News, 1942-1944. On file at MDAH.
Lutgert, W.H., and R. de Winter. Voor Hen die Vielen. The Hague, Holland: Historical Section of the Netherlands Air Staff, 1992. MDAH call number 949.2/L973v/1992.
“Netherlands Flying School,” subject file, MDAH.
Remous: Organ of the Royal Netherlands Military Flying School. March-December 1943. MDAH call number OS/949.2/R81r/D.
Stubbs, Ben. The Dutch Fliers. Interview with Fred Streuding on January 17, 2000. MDAH call number 949.2/S932d/2000.
Van der Laan, 1st Lt. R., ed. Royal Netherlands Military Flying School in United States of
America. New York: E.W. Smith and Company, 1943. MDAH call number 949.2/R81.