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Interview with William Spoelhof [11/30/2002]

William Spoelhof:

[Beginning of partial transcript] Within a week, we became experienced veterans, he and I, the two of us, by witnessing the first Buzz Bomb or the V-ONE, and the V-ONE is written with V and a 'One', not a V 'i' but V-ONE capitalized to distinguish it from a V-TWO. A Buzz Bomb was a German airplane in fact loaded with explosive material which had a predetermined range and as soon as it ended that course which had been set in advance, it would dive down, hit the ground and explode upon contact. So it's danger was entirely of the blast which could run...I saw that first one that came over London...that first Buzz Bomb was up in the air quite high. I saw a little spit fire, English spit fire, which was the fastest English plane, chasing it, And it couldn't catch up with it. And all of the lights of the Hide Park, the lights guarding invasion by air, pinpointed toward that little target in the air and all of a sudden that Buzz Bomb stopped, fell to he ground and ended in a blast and I yelled I remember, 'We got 'em, we got 'em!' Little did I know we didn't get them, because this started about almost a month or more of the Buzz Bomb Blitz of London.

I got to Eienhoven which had just been liberated, southern Netherlands had just been liberated by English and Canadian, primarily Canadian forces. So I was operating not in American territory, I was operating in Canadian and English territory. And I joined a little group of special intelligence agents. The name of our group was Melony Mission to the Netherlands. There were about, oh I would say, four or five officers in that group. The head of the group was a colonel, Dutch born, a Dutch architect had designed an American embassy. He had become an American citizen years ago. And designed an embassy in the Hague Netherlands before the war, a very very able man....Under him was Jan LaVerge. He was also Dutch born, an American citizen, a very wealthy tobacco man in Richmond, Virginia who died only about half a year ago and I had been in correspondence with him ever since. He was in the military, in the Army I mean. I was still then a JG in the Navy. And it was there that we carried on the special intelligence.

In London early, as a member of research and analysis, my work had been to become very thorough acquainted you mind going back bit?

After I had been there two or three weeks or a month my job was to become thoroughly acquainted with the whole Dutch colony in London. You see the Queen had left with her government now in exile in London. And the political leaders were all there. Furthermore, many people, men, fled from the Netherlands to England by various means, and were stationed there either employed by the Dutch government or were independents. It was almost these people that I learned what was going on in the Netherlands. Many of them became my personal friends. I went dining and drinking with them as, oh, as the opportunity afforded. One of the in particular, a Meijer Major Den Bor, who had escaped from the Netherlands. He had been in the Dutch Army which had to evacuate before the German forces. And he had been trained by English intelligence to drop behind the lines. However on one of the practice jumps, he was injured, his back was injured, so he was not able to go. He was very close to the Dutch government as were some of his friends. And I would frequently, oh I went to church with him, I drank coffee with him, I had dinners at the Dutch House in Union square. Oh I don't even know the name of the place anymore.

But anyway, I received very valuable information from him, so that too was intelligence. But now in Eienhoven, my job was to pick up any kind of intelligence whatsoever that came across the river. You know we were just on the other side of the river. And our group trained them and sent them back with telegraphic equipment and they would wire intelligence to us. Or people who escaped and were not suitable for agents to be sent back. Therefore they became valuable for me for the information that they had to supply.

Rachel Smith:

Where or from whom did you get most of your information?

William Spoelhof:

From a wide variety of people. It didn't matter as to the rank or position as long as they knew something about what was going on in the homeland. And those, as I indicated, extended the most, shall I say prestigious man may well have been, oh, an ambassador or the Arch bishop, a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, of course, or whether it is an escapee from the Netherlands who is just an ordinary person but would cross the border and immediately would fall into the hands of our organization, quizzed and trained for reentry into his own country again. A wide variety of people. I think the most consistent were the Dutch administrators who had escaped and were formed the government in exile in London, members of the cabinet, and also staff members, such people were very good sources of information.

Rachel Smith:

What were the main ways you got the information from them?

William Spoelhof:

The information one gets, one never knows exactly what is pertinent to a given situation and therefore we'd write reports on the interviews which contained as complete description of the meeting and the circumstances of it, so that those who had to process those reports could take from it whatever they thought was important. [The reports] varied from one page to extensive reports. They [those questioned] knew that I was in the United States service and that they knew the name of the organization, Special Intelligence, and they knew the name of the unit, namely, the Melanie Mission to the Netherlands. When someone escaped from the Netherlands and crossed the line, they would be assigned to me or to whatever person was interested at that particular moment. Or if I happened to go to dinner with someone I knew had just escaped or who was being trained to be dropped back in the Netherlands. They were not assigned to me, it was entirely my own initiative.

Rachel Smith:

What was a normal day like?

William Spoelhof:

That's hard to say because you made your day. Very frequently you didn't have a plan for the day unless you knew what was in the area. Then you would plan to deal with that particular situation. And there never is a normal day in the military. And particularly during the period of the Battle of the Bulge, when all my superior officers were gone, and so since I was the immediate superior line officer, even though I was in the Navy, if there was one of equal class in the Army, he would have taken over...or she...later on there was a women who joined our staff, way at the end of the war.

So, you see, at that particular time, we had to make plans to evacuate very, very rapidly, I recall that, very, very clearly. When the intelligence we were receiving looked very bleak for us, and I recall making plans to burn down all of our files if we were attacked, and to evacuate as successfully as we could. But that only lasted for about two days. And so that was not a normal day, that was an extraordinary day.

I had about six close calls with the Buzz Bomb. Those were extraordinary. During the periods too, I would about two or three times go down to Paris both on assignment and for rest and recreation. And, wow, when we went to Paris it was terrific. There we were lodged in a beautiful hotel right off the 'Arch de Triumph'. And we had the organization of entertainment of the U.S.A. forces motion picture, all kinds of entertainment. And we had regular good food. But as soon as we left and took a truck back to Eienhoven, we were between Paris and Eienhoven on hard tack.

We worked with these kinds of underground groups. And part of my job was to find out who the underground groups were. But that was dangerous material, and one real secret of the underground is, number one: keep it small because the more people involved, the worse it is, number two: don't disclose who you are by name or anything like that. So we would get to know names and try to figure out about these groups, but that is tough work. I remember in one occasion I was near Zealand, and Rem was with me at the time, and it was a group meeting which had been an underground group in the unliberated area. He made the appointment, and when we came, we had to go into a warehouse, which was completely dark, had to walk between boxes and cases, here and there a candle, and knocked at the door and they opened it slightly, and there was just a candle burning on the table and a group of people sitting around. And they demanded identification. Who are you? And they were not too convinced.

[End of Transcript]

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  October 26, 2011
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