Rumors were going around that the Germans were retreating from Belgium. German soldiers with all kinds of war equipment were stationing themselves all around our town. Our school became a hospital for the wounded German soldiers. On top of the roof of the school building was a large Red Cross flag. The Germans took a lot of horses from our farms to pull their heavy artillery equipment into the farm fields close to the German border. The Germans were preparing themselves for an all out allied attack. Our town had become a front line. Day after day I saw Red Cross ambulances loaded with wounded German soldiers coming in from the Belgian front line. We knew it was just a matter of time until we would see our American liberators.
With all of this war going on we kids missed a lot of education. Schools were not available. Some of our teachers worked together with the underground freedom fighters and were caught by the Germans and never returned.
Many German citizens who worked for their government and lived in our neighborhood suddenly started to move out in a hurry. They must have heard the news that American troops had crossed the Dutch borders from Belgium. There were all kinds of stories going around that those German families who were caught by American troops would be killed. The Dutch N.S.B. people who cooperated with the Germans and killed so many Dutch people started to disappear. The Dutch people would be just looking for them to take revenge.
During the German occupation most of the radios were taken away from the Dutch people. No radio was allowed in any Dutch home. The Germans didn't want us to listen to overseas broadcasting. The Dutch underground freedom fighters secretly had their own radio equipment. They would spread around the latest news. Some people had short wave radios hidden in their basements. The word got around that some people had seen American troops several miles away from our town. It was in the month of September, 1944, the weather had become cold and rainy. It rained for days and it became so muddy that the German soldiers had many problems moving their war equipment. Most of their war equipment was stuck in the mud. As they tried to move it, it sank deeper and deeper in the mud. I am sure the American troops had the same problems. The weather slowed down some of the fighting in the combat zone. As the weather cleared the combat zone got closer to our town. Many grenades from heavy cannons started to hit our area. Some of those grenades were direct hits into our houses. We spent most of our time in the underground shelter. Sometimes I had to go into the house to pick up things for my baby sister. As I was walking out of the house one time to go back to the underground shelter a grenade hit the roof of our neighbor's house. The explosion of this grenade was so strong that it threw me clear across our yard. Somehow I wasn't hurt at all but it scared me quite a bit.
Day by day the fighting of the war became more intense and we knew our American liberators couldn't be that far away. We noticed that many German soldiers with their war equipment were in such a hurry to get across the German border. Many of their big tiger tanks were rolling through our narrow streets and did a lot of damage.
Until the last minute the Germans used our school for a hospital. When they moved they were in such a hurry that they didn't even have time to bury the amputated arms and legs from the soldiers who were operated on in the hospital. Those arms and legs were piled up in a corner of the school building. It was an awful scene to look at as my friends and I were going through the school building to find some food or other things we could use.
All around our town the German infantry started to dig foxholes. We knew they were getting ready for the Americans and our town had become a frontline. We were stuck in the underground shelter as it was too dangerous to walk on the streets. The German soldiers were patrolling all the streets. We could hear the German infantry soldiers run back and forth on our street as the noise of their heavy boots was very noticeable. From far away we could hear the sound of rattling machine guns. We just sat in our shelter and waited for our liberators. Then a neighbor dropped by our shelter and told us he had seen an American soldier in our street. We were so overjoyed that we left our shelter to greet our liberators. As we were walking to our street suddenly we saw this American soldier carefully moving from one house to the other. He was carrying a light automatic machine gun. You couldn't hear a sound as he walked from house to house. His boots were so light. We were so used to hearing those heavy sounds of the German boots.
We all ran to the American soldier to greet him when suddenly gunfire was coming from everywhere. In no time we all were back in our shelters again. We thought we were liberated but the fighting had just begun. Some people were carrying the Dutch flag around (red, white and blue) and were celebrating on the streets. It was too early to celebrate yet as there were still many German combat soldiers around. The Germans put up a fierce attack and the Americans had no way to advance. During the night the fog was so heavy that the Germans crossed through the American frontlines. In the morning when the fog had cleared, the Germans were all around in the American fighting zone. It became a man to man battle and I saw German and American soldiers fighting hand combat with their bayonets on their rifles. We had to stay in our shelter. We were in the frontlines and cannon grenades were hitting everywhere. We were without food and there was no way for us to get any. The American troops were about to advance to certain parts across the German border. The German border was only five minutes away from our house. In fact we were so close that we clearly could see the "Siegfried line".