As a B-17 tail gunner during WWII, Wesley Homes Des Moines resident Ted Gary flew in 22 combat missions in the Army Air Corps. When the time came for Ted to fly during Operation Chowhound in 1945, he was happy to participate.
Operation Chowhound consisted of flight missions to drop food to the Dutch people who were starving in the Netherlands during the Dutch Famine. These food drops were possible because of a truce between the German, American and British forces in response to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands’ pleas for aid.
“I flew in my crew’s first and the last Chowhound missions,” said Ted. “We were all worried that the Germans wouldn’t honor the truce, but they did. So there we were, flying only 400 feet above German forces with their big guns in occupied Amsterdam. Some pilots flew as low as 50 feet. It was so flat in the Netherlands that no one was worried about mountains.”
Each plane held approximately two tons of food. Ted’s flight crew sent out 42 planes to various drop zones.
“Before we started the mission, we didn’t know what was going on,” said Ted. “My crew and I came across this big metal can of chocolate, and we were going to eat one piece each. We found out we were there for Operation Chowhound and decided not to eat the chocolate. The Dutch people needed it more.”
The Dutch people were so grateful for the food drops that they fashioned large ground signs out of flowers that said “THANK YOU BOYS” and “THANKS YANKS”. Ted knows that Germans also ate the food, and that’s fine with him. The Germans were starving, too.
Unfortunately, some of the Dutch people had been starving for so long that they had difficulty digesting the food. “If you’re starving, you have to re-introduce food to yourself slowly. Some of them died because they ate too much too fast,” said Ted.
Over the years, Ted has met people who received food during Operation Chowhound.
“Several years after the war, I met a Dutchman and asked if he had received food during Operation Chowhound,” remembered Ted. “He said no, but his mother had. He brought her out to meet me. She was so appreciative. I volunteer at the Museum of Flight and have met several Dutch people there, too. Their reaction is the same. They are very appreciative of those food drops.”
In the end, Ted is “glad we were able to do it. I’m also very appreciative that the Germans didn’t break the truce!”