Henri was born on November 26th 1921 in Faymonville near Malmedy in the eastern part of Belgium.
On May 10th 1940 Germany invaded Belgium and 10 days later the region of Eupen/Malmedy in which he lived were added to the German territory. Early in 1942 the young men in the region were drafted into the German army as they were considered German citizans. By that time Henri Dannemark had already started flying in gliders as he was always passionated by flying. When he was drafted he opted for the Luftwaffe and after 2 years of training in naval flying as mechanic he was ordered into active service in March 1944. He was transferred to Seenotstaffel 2 which at that time had been reduced to only two Do-24's.
He came onto the crew of the Do-24T-3 DT+HA (Werk Nr. 1075) which was ordered to the Kunda Bight with only one mission, recovering people from the sea. The crew was of mixed nationality. Pilot was Oberfeldwebel Obels (German), navigator was Emil Wagner (Polish, from Wachtegau), Radio-operator was Unter-Offizier König (French, from the Elsass) and 1st mechanic was Henri Dannemark (Belgium, from Eupen/Malmedy).
On May 25th 1944 the order came to ready the machine for a search in Quadrant X to locate a shot down Ju-87 crew. After about 1 hour flying they saw something yellow on the water and they overflew it at about 600 meter height. They landed but were only able to save the pilot who floated unconscious in the water. Dannemark was the person who pulled him out of the water, while he himself was being held tight by another crewmember so he would not fall into the water. It was not easy to get the what at that time became apparant, dead pilot in his fully equipped suit from the water. The crew immediately after take-off contacted the base to announce that they recovered the lifeless body of the pilot. During the returnflight Henri looked at the body from his seat and remembers how his body looked dead, but his face was ful of life and just looked unconscious. He went to he front of the plane and reported that the pilot was alive. He was ordered back to take off his flying suit and lie him on his side. He breathed and there was a faint pulse and he remained unconscious during the whole flight. They landed in the Kunda Bight where an ambulance was waiting. The rescued pilot had to be in shock as he was still unconscious when the ambulance left. The crew was very proud to have rescued a person from certain death and the people from the local village again and again asked how it all took place, they too were proud.
Life in the Kunda Bight was nice. The small bight was covered with big rocks all polished smoothly by the washing water. It could have been the night of May 25th (or shortly before or after, Mr. Dannemark does not remember) that they were dancing in the sunset with accordeon music playing. With his girlfriend Maria Henri found a nice round stone and danced the whole evening.
The crews in the Kunda Bight lived in the house of the family Jahrinen which was about 50 meter away from the shore. In total there were between 15 and 20 houses which formed the small fisherman village. To the mouring place of the Do-24 it was no more than 150 meter. There was a good atmosphere between the villagers and the crews and especially with the family Jahrinen. They received bread from them and at one time some clothes. In return they received eggs. For Henri Dannemark things didnot have to change. The German crews sometimes went fishing, although not the noble art of fishing. Very early in the morning they went downstream on the river and at the right place dropped a charge of dynamite. 100 meters further downstream waited a dinghy from which it was easy picking and they catched between 80 and 100 fish the two times they did this type of fishing. The fisherman helped in preparing the fish and together with something that resembled Cognac everyone from young to old enjoyed the fish.
They flew several missions, al without result. During
one of these missions on the way back to the Kunda Bight they came across a
single Soviet fighter, flying not more than 50 meters away at the same
height. Didn't he want to shoot or was he out of amunition, nobody knows.
Henri Dannemark still wonders if the Russian pilot reported his contact to
his superiors. By the way the Do-24 was known to the Russians as "Klapperstorch".
June 5th 194 was the last mission of Henri Dannemark. At around 11:00 hours they were ordered to locate the crew of a shot down Junkers Ju-87 divebomber. On the way to the location they were to be joined by their escorts which consisted of Focke Wulf Fw-190's. At 12:10 radio-operator König spotted the escorts and reported "Unser Begleitschutz ist da" (Our escorts have arrived). At first the crew expected two, at most three escort fighters. There were a lot of Fighters and they flew about 1 km away and about 100 meter higher. At that time three or four fighters left the formation. Everything went fast thereafter. Dannemark remembers thinking that they weren't Messerschmitt's and they could not be Focke Wulfs, the fuselage was to short, At that time Henri saw two of them break away from the group at which time he saw the red star on the wings and tail and via the intercom called to the pilot DI-DA (attack). He quickly crawled into the middle gunturret to man the doublebarrel Oerlikon cannon. He was able to fire some rounds at the attackers, but to no avail. Henri Dannemark later found out that the last radio contact with his Do-24 was at 12:07, so this must have been the time of the attack.
He then saw from about 400-500 meter out the bullets coming from the guns of a Lavochkin La-5 flown by Senior Lieutenant Alexander Potyomkin. The Do-24 was at that time flying at about 500-600 meter height just under the clouds. After this Henri lost consciousness, without being hit though. When he came to he saw the water in front of him, the aircraft had broken in two pieces and as he was in the middle turret he was now out in the open. The Soviets were still firing at the Do-24 and above him the battle raged on. He had no choice but to get out of the plane otherwise he would be sucked down by the sinking aircraft. He had training with dinghy's, but never alone. Henri later heared that the escorts saw the battle from a far and that a number of Thunderbolts were shot down in the battle when the escorts arrived.
report of the battle which almost cost Henri Dannamerk his life:
According to the
report of the commander of the 4th Fighter Detachment-Polk (4fp) of the
Baltic Navy Airforces (Central Navy Archive, Fond 989, Opis 0018714, Delo
11. List 156, 164, 1565, 166, 167) 4 Lavochkin La-5 starting from 12:05 till
12:30 (Moscow time), June 5, 1944, had a sever struggle with 27 Junkers
Ju-87 divebombers and 6 Focke Wulf Fw-190 fighters 5 km from the island
Vigrunt to the west at a height of 4300 meter. At 12:55 another four La-5's
took of and were ordered to attack a Do-24 which was reported 15 km west of
the island Big Vigrunt. There was also mention of the four escorting Fw-190
At 13:42 the
Soviet pilots were flying at 1000 meter height and noticed the German
aircraft and attacked them. Two La-5's under the command of Lieutenant
Shestopalov attacked two Fw-190's and the other two La-5's under the command
of Lieutenant Potyomkin attacked the remaining two Fw-190's and the Do-24.
At first Potyomkin shot down one of the Fw-190's and while turning (at 13:45
from right under at 200 meter height from a distance of 25 meter) he
attacked the Do-24 which was flying a course of 270. Potyomkin fired three
long bursts. After the attack the Do-24 fell into the water 20-25 km
south-west from the island Vigrunt.
Alexander Potyomkin was born on January 18th 1923 in Novo-Alexandrosky in
the Ordjonikidze region. He graduated in 1942 and was sent to the 4th fp
where he started as a sergeant. He became a Senios Lieutenant on May 30th
1944 and received no less than 5 medals. Th last one, the "Order of the
Red Banner", he received on June 12th 1944 (most likely for shooting
down two Do-24's and two Fw-190's on June 5th and 7th). After the war
Lieutenant-Colonel Potyomkin graduated from the Aviation Academy in 1947 and
was sent to the far east to take part in the Korean War as commander of 949
Squadron. He was killed when he was shot down on June 12th 1953.]
When everything became quiet he saw a lone fighter coming and still weary he made out the German insignia's on the wings, from that time on Henri Dannemark was fully conscious. From far a second fighter appeared at about 200-300 meter height and Henri made himself known with his flaregun. The pilot flew past at 50 meter height and made a wide 180 degree turn, again flew past, wagged his wings and Henri waved back. Both fighters disappeared in the distance. At this time Henri again had hope of himself being rescued. Many time during the waiting he lost consciousness due to the severe pain in his back. During the wake periods he remembers to be busy with his small radio transmitter which constantly transmitted the S.O.S. signal. His head injury was so severe that he could only open one eye with difficulty. He still doesnot know how he got into the dinghy as during training it was impossible for an adult and phisically 100% man to enter the dinghy on his own, so how could he with all his pain and injuries get in there. He was also wondering how pebbles got in his mouth, untill he discovered they were his teeth! Some of them he could get out, in his tong was a deep cut. Later in the hospital more teeth were missing which must have ended up in his stomach. During the day he heared several engines in the distance and at one time a fighter appeared and wagged his wings.
On the same day at about 19:00 hours more engine noise and a fighter appeared, circled the boat and shortly thereafter a Do-24 appeared. This aircraft was flown in directly from Germany (probably from Pillau) to rescue Henri and his crewmembers. Under the protection of the fighters this Do-24 brought Henri back to the Kunda Bight. He doesnot remember much from the returnflight, only the words "Beruhige Dich, ruhig ; ruhig bleiben, Du bist gerettet" (Stay calm, calmly, remain calm, you are saved).
[There is only
sporadic imformation available about the Do-24 that rescued Henri Dannemark.
It came directly from a Germany and early in the afternoon was ordered to
fly in the direction of the Kunda Bight, more orders would follow later
during the flight. The aircraft came from a base on the German coast and
Henri remembers that the navigator had no maps of the Kunda Bight operations
area. Two days later, on June 7th, another Do-24 was shot down, again by
Alexander Potyomkin. As there were no reported Do-24's in the region this
had to be the Do-24 that saved Henri Dannemark. Investigations into the
German records as to which crew saved Henri Dannemark have provided no
On arrival in the Kunda Bight there were two amulances waiting, but Henri was the only survivor. The whole village had heard of the Do-24 being shot down and was waiting for signs of life. One ambulance brought Henri to the army hospital in either Kunda or Wesenberg, the Ju-87 pilot that the crew of Henri Dannemark rescued had just left the hospital in which Henri was now entering. He stayed a few days in the hospital and remembers that it was a very big hall. He was from top to bottom completely covered in bandages. The left eye, a part of the mouth and his two arms were the only parts not covered. The food was fluid and given through a straw. besides this there was no treatment. He also remembers a bath tub with a lot of people around him. They threatened to bind him down and said: "Der Kerl macht den Rest noch selber kaputt" (This guy will break the rest of his body himself). It had to have been the injections that gave me rest and enabled me to sleep. At the hospital a case with French cognac had arrived, a gift of the divebomberunit as thank for resceuing their pilot. The case was for the whole crew but now it was the enheritance of Henri Dannemark. One of the wounded at the hospital opened one bottle and Henri remembers the bottle going round and he himself also getting a drink through a straw.
A few days later he was flown to Königsberg in a Junkers Ju-52 filled with everely wounded.
He will never forget the welcome, every wounded person received a bouquet and there were girls singing. From there it was straight by hospital-train via Dresden to Plauen in Vogtland. The hospital in Plauen was a former school. There I was reunited with my duffelbag, my personal suitcase and to my surprise with a part of the cognac. What happened with this stuff he doesn't remember. He had severe upper and lower jaw injuries with deep cuts and a very deep cut in his tongue contrained him to fluid food for a long time. The first four to five weeks he had severe back and neck pains and headaches.
During his stay in Plauen he received a letter from Maria Jarinen dated June 6th 1944. He was very happy to receive so much sympathy from people who lived in a German occupied country. As he remembers he answered the letter but as the front was now close to the Kunda Bight he has no knowledge if the letter ever reached it's destination.
During his stay in Plauen he received a second letter, this time from Emilie Wagner, the mother of his navigator Emil Wagner ("Der kleine Emil" [the little Emil]).
Henri Dannemark about Emil Wagner:
The little Emil was as navigator a big one, as a memory about my crew only Emil has stayed, his calculations were always correct. Not always was our pilot willing to accept his calculations and made small adjustements. That always fell in the wrong way with my friend Emil, up to the point of him being nauseas and a few time even to the point of vomoting. His spare time was always taken up with calculations. He must have been a model scholar. He has a bit of a fool in him, I can still see it in my memory. He, the smallest of us, tried to do the polejump, we all laughed. I also remember, that Emils mother was a widow. Emil had spoken to me about the death of his father. We understood eachother as he spoke a little French.
Oberfeldwebel Eugen Wassmer helped Henri with the letter he wrote back to Mrs. Wagner.
One special occasion Henri remembers is the attack on Hitler in July 1944. Still in the hospital in Plauen that evening the picture of Hitler was ripped from its frame. The next day it was hanging back and his "neighbor" Eugen Wassmer was the one who with great difficulty stabilized the ward. Henri remembers a young SS soldier in the ward, heavily wounded but recovering, and sister Elisabeth who had great difficulty in calming the young soldier. Sister Elisabeth salviged the situation and suggested they play their favorite tunes on an accordeon to liven up the situation, it worked.
Henri Dannemark continues:
A few days later, fortunately sister Elisabeth was with us, the door of the ward opens and from the local authorities there stands Unteroffizier X (I can't remember his name). Originally he worked in coffee beans, was wounded five times, on the Western and Eastern front and had the wounded medal in gold EK-1. Starting this morning, he said, we were only allowed to greet with the hitlergreet. Standing there in the door he raised his hand to bring the Hitlergreet and with a loud voice said: "So hoch liegt der Dreck bei uns" (this is how high the shit is with us). Sister Elisabeth saved his life. What I didnot know up till then was that SS soldiers were allowed to keep their pistols in the hospital. Sister Elisabeth knew this and rushed to the young SS soldier hugging him, she cried and pleaded "are there not enough dead already?"
That was the first time Henri Dannemark really was afraid of the German Regime.
In the weeks that followed small tables appeared on wheels. On it were boxes with small threads, soldering grease, a small thin electrical soldering iron and plates with holes in it. According to the instructions the colored threads were to be soldered. Henri was also asked if he could do this. From then on he soldered every day from 10:00 to 12:00 sitting in his bed. He was pleased that he was again able to use his hands. The wheeled table also provided a solid base for a chess game. In the afternoons Eugen Wassmer learned Henri the basics of chess.
In the basements of the school were the operating rooms and around that time it was there where he was fitted with a muzzle like construction around his lower jaw. It enabled him to drink more, like beefstock and very short cooked eggs. It also enabled him to stand again as the construction was also stabelizing his head.
At the end of August he was called and heard he was to go on a recuperation holiday, the space was needed for more severly wounded. Henri at that time was not aware of the situation on the western front and he doesnot remember what made him do it but he went back to his unit, now stationed in Brossenbrode. He asked for travelingpapers and enough food and went on his way to Grossenbrode. They, Henri was not the only one to leave, were brought to the trainstation. From the journey he doesnot remember much. He arrived in Oldenburg, changed to the train to Grossenbrode. A stop at Heringsdorf where a company with an officer entered, they immediately recognized each other. After the mutual, more friendlike than military, greatings he asked what Henri was doing there. After a smal explanation the officer (one of the officers of Henri's unit) said he knew nothing of this but they would work something out for him. After arriving in Grossenbrode Henri received a room for himself with the order to first get some rest. The next day Henri was to report to the officer. The evening was spent with old and new comerades and he of course had to tell the story of his past half months.
There was talk about retraining on the Messerschmitt Me-163 rocketfighter and other projects. When he was alone in his bunk Henri thought about the next day and had to admit that in his condition there was nothing he could do for the unit.
The next morning he reported to his superior as instructed and again had to tell the story of his last months. After this he was introduced to the commander of the unit and when he saw Henri he asked what he was doing there in his condition. The commanding officer arranged an appointment the next day with a doctor. The rest of the day, it was beautiful weather, he was ordered to take care of the plants and flowers on the base and the commanding officer added, Henri you need sunlight.
The visit to the doctor the next day was not enlightening, he could do nothing about Henri's mouth and teeth and also nothing about the cut in his tongue. Then a conversation started and from the beginning Henri felt interrogated. The doctor was an officer and along the way asked if Henri was catholic, which he confirmed. He then asked where he lived and said it was high time that Henri went back home. Henri remembers that some of the conversations were in French. Inbetween the questions the doctor had a conversation with Henri's commanding officer to get things of the ground as soon as possible. With the current cards in his hands he showwed Henri that the Americans were already at the gates of Aachen. Henri received a holidaypermit and a special travelpermit and that afternoon was put on a train home.
From Grossenbrode to Aachen Henri remembers passing through Hamburg-Haarburg, kilometers long as the eye could see 100% destruction. After two days the train arrived in Aachen in the main trainstation. It was September 9th 1944 and the Americans were fighting in the suburbs of Aachen. On platform 1 the train waited to St. Vith, a loc with three carrages. Before entering he had to show his Soldbuch, the holidaypermit and as he showed his special travelpermit he was mentioned that entering this train was at his own risk. It was late in the afternoon and it proved to be the last train to St. Vith. The train had only just left the station when Henri saw, looking from the window, the fighterbombers attacking the city of Aachen. Then it happened, a few young passengers jumped out the windows of the slow going train. Only then Henri noticed that one of the fighterbombers had noticed the train and marked it as a target. The locomotive was attacked from the front and it's boiler was punctured. When the train stopped a few soldiers who were also on the train helped me to get out. Most of the passengers ran a few hundred meters and took cover under a railroadbridge. Cross to the traintrack was a ditch and Henri took cover in the ditch. He told the soldiers to get the people from under the bridge and take them to the ditch because under the bridge they were not safe from any explosions or attacks from the fighterbombers. Fortunately there were no more attacks and everything went quiet except the hissing of the boiler of the locomotive. Henri doesnot remember if there were any dead or wounded that day.
It was not far from the trainstation and Henri was the only one with a suitcase and a duffelbag. Volunteers helped him carry his belongings. They knew that because of the fire in the trainstation the train from St. Vith to Aachen had to turn around. Shortly before dark Henri's last ride as a German ended when he came back to his hometown Faymonville. For him the war was over. That same day, September 9th 1944 the last German soldiers had left Faymonville and withdrew to Germany.
In the afternoon of September 10th 1944 my father asked me to bring the cows into the stables as he thought it would be safer to milk them there. His military clothes, duffelbag and every paper concerning his military past were hidden in the barn under some boards. So Henri went out to get the cows from the direction from which the Americans were expected. The last 500 meter were unpaved road with deep tracks cut into it. He didnot get into the tracks and with a stick in his hand was about 10 meter away from the gate to the cows grazing land. There he saw an American armoured reconnaissance verhicle. They stared at each other for quit some time. Three American soldiers, two of which armed with machineguns, looked at him. Henri didnot speak any English. but the Americans understood his signe language and laughed, causing Henri to also laugh. Henri moved his hands to show he was going to milk the cows, his second movement was to show he was getting the cows from the field into the barn and the third that the Americans had to get back a bit, which they did. They let him get the cows and as he was positioned behind the cows the Americans asked him "Bosch in village?". Henri shook his head and said the Germans had left the town. The Americans followed Henri and the 5 cows to the stable and later to his parents house. Quickly they were surrounded by the local people all gazing at the Americans. Two teenagers showed the people the way, they first greated the Americans in the French way and shook their hands. That broke the ice. All the way to the grazing ground to his parents house, Henri was in doubt, as no more than 3 kilometer away in the next village where they spoke German, there were still German soldiers. The Americans gave Henri a box of Camel sigarettes and returned the way they came.
The next day the tanks and infantery marched to Germany. A few days later the "Civil Affairs" took up office in Henri's parents house. Henri's parents had kept his Belgium identification documents all those years and every day his mother put it into his clothes as he went out the door. The mayor from before the war was reinstated and the American officer of the Civil Affairs bureau ordered him to make up a complete list of all the people who served in the German military's. Faymonville was one of the smallest towns in Beligum in May 1940 with only 880 residents. The list that came up also included that of Henri Dannemark, Deutsche Luftwaffe. Some on the list were on holiday, others already had to be back at their units but went into hiding. The special thins was that two German policemen, the tall Hans and his commander Oberwachtmeister Biskupsky, knew about the hidingplaces. Everybody was interogated. Henri however was a special case and two officers of the US Air Force came over from a nearby airbase. Henri was interogated with his father present in a corner of the room. The officers more than once made Henri clear that they would cut his throught if he would not cooperate. Henri knew nothing valuable and kept on saying that he didnot shame himself for having served in the Luftwaffe. The interogation gradualy evolved in a conversation, dicussing shiprecongition, even Japanese warships. They even went sofar as to force Henri to volunteer for military duty fighting against Japan. In the meantime they had enjoyed e few glasses of cognac. Henri now doesnot remember how serious the Americans were about him joining up to fight Japan. The conversation ended and Henri was presented with a form that if he should change him mind he could still join the fight against Japan. The form was already filled in with the right postmark, date and postal adress, the only thing missing was Henri's signature.
A few days later everybody that served for the German forces had to go to the city hall. There stood two American GMC doubleaxle truckes with black covering. We were called by name and were taken away for imprisonement for 6 months to a year. 12 kilometer away in the barracks of Malmedy was a gatheringpoint for later further transport to POW camps in Cherbourg and the rest of France. After a gruelsome ride to Malmedy the trucks had to halt before the gate of the barracks. Henri was in the second truck and there was not a soldier in sight. Slowly Henri slipped out of the truck and made it across the road without being seen now he was on his home turf, he knew every crack in the road and after a short while was hiding in the house of his former schoolteacher, which was located outside of Malmedy. He was greated wamfully. There he learned that his old schoolteacher was imprisoned and had been for a year now, all the time innocent.
Henri stayed in the house for a few days and then risced to go outside and in the evening made it to the small machinefactory in town. A few days later some old custemers, who had heard that he had escaped, came to look him up and check on their machines. Every day Henri felt safer and now and again went to work around the town.
Henri lived on a long straight road and one day the doorbel rang. Outside stood a jeep. The wife of the housekeeper called: "They're coming to get you". Henri's only thought was "Now they have you afterall". They greeted him kindly and asked if he was Henri Dannemark, explaining that they came from the city administration and they had heard that he was there.
The milking had to be picked up straught away, but first the heat had to be turned up in the houses, so he was back from the BMW-Bramo 323R to the old boiler. Besides that the machined for milking the cows had to be tested. They took Henri with them straight away. The civil administration had their office in the city hall. There he received a numbered access pass with US seal and signed by Major Balbridge.The US army was in great need of butter so for the second time Henri escaped captivity.
The front was not more than 12 km away. Right beside the house of his former schoolteacher one morning stood a row of heavy artillery. In regular intervals bursts of fire were given. In Lansival house here Henri leaved he remembers there also lived a German officerswife who's husband was on the eastern front, she was bombed out of some German city she used to live. That evening the American gunners stayed together with the Dannemark family in the kitchen. A christmastree livened up the place. They at and drunk (too much) and then it happened, Annette Plum, the officerswife, attached a starshaped plaquete to her coat and laughed about the jews. One of the Americans however was a jew and the christmasmood was gone.
After a few days the artillery unit was transferred closer to the front and Henri continued with his work. So a few weeks went by.
On December 17th 1944 out of the blue the "von Rundstedtt Offensive" made the Americans run. Long colomns of vehicles fled through the village going west. Along the French border an uncle of Henri lived and with his friend Klaus Held, Henri decided to leave Malmedy straight away to try and reach his uncle. Just outside the village they found bicycles and came across Henri's brother, coming from Faymonville, also running from the Germans. It was shortly before dark and one hour later they were in Stavelot in the north aprt of the town. They spend the night in the house of Senator Godin. Very early in the morning they were awakened and were told that there was gunfire in the southern part of the town. A German unit had captured the Warchebridge, only 1 km from where they were.
Their breakfast had to be taken with them, no time to eat it there. They stayd away from the main roads as they were shot on by English fighters. Gradually they came on the main road to Lüttich and seemed to be in the clear. Shortly before La Gleize they heared loud enginenoised coming from behind. Coming through a bend they noticed a German armored reconnaissance vehicle. As Henri was known with the area they were able to make theyr way to La Gleize without being noticed.
A walk through 20 km over the mainroad brought them to Aywaille. They went to the policestation and heard that the German's had reached La Gleize. Henri mentioned his plan to reach his uncle and they were given provisions from the hotel on the other side of the road. In the distance they heard machinegun fire. Without hanging about the march went on only now there were five of them, the son of the policecommander had joined them along with the son of the hotel owner, Edgard Hausmann. Edgard had tro flee because he was wanted by the Gestapo for being a known resistance member.
Within one day they crossed the Maas river at Hastičre. The next day thy were safe at the house of Henri's uncle, Joseph Chavet in Macquenoise. Henri's uncle was widow so they all helped out. Edgard, the resistance man, had a cooking degree, and the others knews there way around a stable. Henri was asked to change the rear axle of a Chevrolet truck what he tried but unfortunately failed to achieve. Later when Henri was back home he had to admit that, besides the cook, they were all more trouble then help.
It was almost Christmas and living with his uncle for a long time already was a priest. Of course they went to mass on Christmas morning, from 10:00 to 11:00. Like in the other towns the people gathered in the streets after the mass and only a few mter from the church stood a jeep. Two American soldiers with their short barrled machineguns and an officer inbetween them with in his hand a Colt pistol, on the handle dangled a foxtail. The local policeman pointed his finger at Henri and said "That's your man". Suddenly eveything went quiet. The officer came to Henri pointing the Colt on his chest and asked "Are you from the German Luftwaffe?" At first Henri returned the gaze in the eyes of the American and was unable to answer. The American spoke again, this time not asking but looking for confirmation "You are a German pilot", then Henri said "Yes". The hand of the American officer started to shake, moving from left to right as they kept staring at each other, wondering who of them was more afraid. Henri was afraid as this was probably the first time the American came face to face with the enemy and may lose control of his weapon. The crowd started to whisper "un espion Allemand" (a German spy).
Your papers, the officers asked. Henri replied that all his papers were in his bedside table. Henri was ordered to step in the jeep and was brought to Hirson, a few kilometer over the French border, for questioning. He spend the night in a room, guarded by an American soldier. Early in the morning the questioning continued, again with the same questions and Henri kept on saying that his papers were in his bedside table. Finally thy brought him back and the two soldiers acompanied him to his sleepingchamber. Henri approached his bedside table and wanted to open the drawer. Both soldiers immediately pulled him back, probably expecting Henri to have a gun there. They opened the drawer and found Henri's Belgium papers and the form to enter the American army and more importantly his a numbered access pass with US seal and signed by Major Balbridge. They returned him to Hirson and half an hour later they were in touch with civil affairs. Now everything went fast. It was December 26th, exactly 11:00 when the Americans dropped Henri off in front of the church, the same spot he was arrested. Exactly 24 hours had pasted and again the same people were standing in front of the church as the day before with the same American soldiers with one difference, now the crowd was whispering "an English spy". Henri received two boxes of American sigarettes and one big chocolate bar.
All five lived with Henri's uncle quit happily and there was little to do in that time of the year. The German offensive was halted and the Americans were in the counterattack. January 15th Henri and his companions parted ways with his uncle and went home, again with enough provisions. Bicycling along the road they went back north, this time crossing the Maas river at Dinant. Dinant, like Namur, Huy and Lüttisch had a citadel. There they saw in within the citadel closely packed a group of German POW's. One or two days later thy arrived at Malmedy. The city was largely destroyed with a lot of Belgium and German civilian casualties. The German attack was mainly directed at the huge American gasoline depot about 100 km to the west, Malmedy was kept in American hands. Lying in a valley Malmedy was under fire from special SS units for a month.
In Baugnes, 4 km from Malmedy was the massacre of Baugnez-Malmedy under the command of Skorzeny and Piper. Just 3 km fuirther was Waimes and another 3 km was Faymonville. In Malmedy we heared about the horror that had taken place and also about the desaster of no less than three attack by American bombers attacking the town which was always in American hands. Hundreds of American soldiers were killed or wounded during these attacks.
A few days later They were allowed to go to Faymonville on their own risk. Faymonville was almost completely deserted with 85% of the village destroyed. Henri's parents, his sister who was a warwidow and a nursing mother to her small child, his jongest brother had all fled our of their burning house. On the run to the next village many of the townpeople lost their lives, because 3 km further were the Americans pounding their artillery. Every night the Americans shelled the houses with phosforbombs. A few days later Henri was reunited with his family.
After the war Henri started his own business in ground equipment, a business which still florishes in Waimes and Flémalle under the control of his three sons.
Letter from Maria Jarinen to Henri Dannemark from June 6th 1944. (coming soon)
Letter from Mrs. Wagner to Henri Dannemark from July 17th 1944. (coming soon)