“Saturday morning the town woke up to the fact that there had been some sort of a foreign invasion in the night,” wrote Bette Barber, a Jackson reporter. She was referring to the nearly 700 Dutch forces that had just arrived in Jackson, Miss. This was May, 1942.
When Japan invaded the Dutch East Indies (present day Indonesia) in 1942, the Dutch needed to relocate their Royal Netherlands Military Flying School. U.S. officials offered Mississippi’s Jackson Army Air Base at Hawkins Field as a military aviation training facility for the Dutch fliers.
Mississippian Marjorie Brooks was working as a clerk at the base when the Dutch airmen arrived. “We were coming in the front gate and we saw all these tall, tan, good-looking guys in shorts and knee socks,” Brooks remembered. “We had never seen anything like that in our lives….it was pretty exciting.”
From early to mid 1940’s, approximately 500 Dutch fliers and other personnel trained at Hawkins field. Dutch Wings Over Jackson tells their story, the story of the girls whose hearts they won, and the story of the relationship between the two countries.
The city of Jackson gave the Netherlands a plot of land in Cedar Lawn Cemetery to serve as a World War II memorial for the Dutch forces. Twenty seven Dutch fliers are buried in the plot, officially considered Dutch soil. Indonesian, Dutch and Jackson officials attend a WWII veteran remembrance ceremony held at the Dutch cemetery every year.
This original MPB production was created in cooperation with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.