Newsletter Issue: March/April 2004 - page 4 of 7

  For six months during the fall and winter of 1944-1945, this unit was stationed at Le Culot Airfield near Louvain, Belgium. The officers of the 412th Fighter Squadron were living at the Castle de Dongelberg, about 7 miles from the airfield. There were several buildings on the grounds. The pilots lived in the Villa, while close by there was an orphanage located in the Chateau and one smaller building. Each day there was much interaction between the men and the children. Not all of these children were orphans. Some were placed there temporarily due to their father being killed in the war and the mother being unable to support them. Others were Jewish children being hidden from the Gestapo. The orphanage, Oeuvre Nationale de L'Enfance (O.N.E), though no longer at Dongelberg, is still in existence today.
  The 373rd Fighter Group (of which the 412th was a part) had become rather famous in the press due to their successful ground attacks against the Germans, in support of General Patton's army. This Week Magazine sent a reporter and photographer to do a story on them. I have attached the text of this story since it so aptly describes the relationship between the children and the officers. The newspaper story of this relationship was complete with pictures of the happy faces of the adults and children alike as they helped each other survive the very stressful emotions of daily life in a war zone.
  Glen Noyes, one of the pilots of the 412th, recalls that they decided to throw a Christmas party for the children of the orphanage. (There are a few surviving pictures of this event also):  

"We collected all of our Belgian francs and whatever we could use for bartering. A volunteer contingent went to Louvain and bought every toy, doll and game that they could find. We wrapped the toys until we ran out of materials including gift-wrappings from home and pages from the Stars & Stripes, the official newspaper of the Allied armed forces.

When the toys were ready, we raided the mess hall and collected some Spam, coffee, marmalade, peanut butter and other items. We even included some liqueurs for the Sisters that had been given to us by General Patton. (His troops "captured" stocks of booze from the Germans who had "liberated" it from the French. General Patton passed it on to us as an expression of thanks for the support provided his forces by P-47 pilots.)

Ev Peters, Bill Mather, Bill Miller and several other pilots delivered the goodies to the orphans. It was a festive occasion. As the gifts were passed out, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. That was the day I SAW Santa Claus."

  The above exerpted from Chapter 26 "Watching the Bulge Grow" by Col. Glen T. Noyes, USAF (Ret.)  
  The men talk about the beauty of those moments away from the war and these feelings have carried forward to this time. Speaking as one of the relatives of the men who were there, I have been affected by this myself. Contemplating my uncle spending some of his last moments in happiness with these children has brought a sense of peace to me. But what of the children themselves? What became of them?  
  While I was searching for information about my uncle, I briefly communicated with a woman in England who was separated from her family during the bombing of London. She, along with thousands of other children, was sent to the countryside for safety. But she was very lonely and frightened. She told of a Christmas party that was given by an American bomber group and that each child was assigned an American airman. She said that to this day, she still thinks of her American and wishes that she could find him to see if he survived the war and to tell him how much his day with her meant to her life. That really made me think. I had seen the effects of the children on the American airmen of the 412th Fighter Squadron and knew how much the kids meant to them. I told her that I was sure that she had made just as big an impression on her American as he had on her. I wished her well in her search.  

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