Representatives of the Dutch government visited Mississippi May 19 to pay tribute to the Dutch airmen who trained at the Royal Netherlands Flying School at Jackson Army Air Base during World War II.

In 1942, in coordination with the American, Australian, and British governments, the Royal Netherlands Military Flying School was established in Jackson, Mississippi.

The school trained Dutch military who fled the Dutch East Indies after Japan invaded. Among the 800 Dutch pilots, aircrew, and ground crew who were trained at the airbase was a significant number of Indonesian military personnel in Dutch service.

Most of the airmen served with the Royal Australian Air Force and fought the Japanese. A select number of pilots were sent to Europe as replacements for the British Royal Air Force’s 322nd Fighter Squadron comprised of Dutch volunteers.

Thirty Dutch military aviators and air crewmen were killed in training accidents in the United States. They were buried in a section of Jackson’s Cedar Lawn Cemetery on East Capitol Street, a location near their training base at Jackson Army Air Base (Hawkins Field).

“We continue to live in freedom because of the sacrifice they, and so many other young soldiers, made to defend our way of life. We are forever in their debt, and they will be forever in our thoughts,” Heleen Bakker, the Netherlands Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission, said during the ceremony.

She added this  holds true for the men and women who serve today in conflict-ridden areas throughout the world. Ms. Bakker was accompanied by Commander Erik Jan Looman, Deputy Defense Cooperation Attaché and Assistant Naval Attaché at the embassy.

Several Dutch airmen married women from Mississippi and other parts of the United States while in training, and immigrated to the United States after the war. Thirteen of these veterans were buried alongside their fellow servicemen who died during the war. The cemetery is the final resting place for 43 Dutch veterans.

Paying special respects

On this occasion, special respects were paid to Captain Pieter Cramerus, who worked and trained at the RNLMFS in 1943. Captain Cramerus died on December 2, 2017. He wanted to be buried near his fellow servicemen. His family was present to commemorate his life and heroic accomplishments, and lay him to rest.

Captain Pieter Cramerus served in the Royal British Air Force’s 322nd Fighter Squadron in Europe. After escaping from Japanese captivity on Java and surviving two plane crashes, Captain Cramerus escaped to Australia and then finally the United States to join the RNLMFS as an instructor pilot.

During the remainder of World War II, Captain Cramerus flew numerous dangerous missions in the Battle of Europe, surviving three more crashes with his Spitfire fighter.

“On behalf of the Dutch government, the Dutch Armed Forces and the Dutch people, I thank the city and the people of Jackson for the hospitality and friendship you showed 75 years ago, and continue to show us today,” Ms. Bakker said.