It is a very great pleasure for me as a Dutch citizen to be able to draw your attention through the medium of this periodical to a facet of Western Defense which is bound to interest you, and which is as important to you as it is to us.
My readers probably know as little about Holland as I do about Texas or Oklahoma. But since any territory’s strategic importance is a function of its geographical constitution and location, I feel I ought to preface my remarks with some information about the size, location, and geography of my country.
To do this I shall have to ask you to try and think in terms of European dimensions. I know from experience how difficult it is for us in this small, flat country of ours to get any clear notion of the stupendous size of your country—or of Asia, Africa, and the Pacific. And yet we have to adjust our minds to these very real expanses that we think so big; for only by doing so may we understand the problems that faced Nimitz and Mac- Arthur in the Pacific, Montgomery in Africa, and Eisenhower in Operation Torch. Space was against them, whereas the big problem facing us in Western Europe is lack of it. It is a problem which is getting more difficult to solve as armies move faster and faster and the range of modern weapons is extended.
Lastly I must ask you, if you can, to put yourselves in the present state of mind of our people and other European nations.
In Holland we never realized what the German occupation of 1914 to 1918 meant for the Belgians, our neighbors on the south, until we had to bear the terrible yoke of enemy occupation ourselves for the five long years from 1940 to 1945. No nation that has not gone through the ordeal itself can have the remotest idea of the suffering inflicted on an occupied country—at least when the occupying power does not embrace modern democratic ideas. You must, therefore, understand that for us anything is preferable to occupation for a second time; it would mean the end of our culture and our future as a nation. “In the battle zone rather than be occupied” is the key-note of our thoughts. This is the consideration that engrosses us in Western Europe, and we are even prepared to enter a European Defense Community with our ex-enemies, Germany and Italy, and to rearm them if by so doing we can avoid occupation. And military minds are concerned with the question how this ancient Western Europe can be defended against aggression with the least amount of risk.
In posing this question, it would be wrong and indeed impossible to disregard the territory of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. To show why is the aim of this study. It makes no predictions and advances no solutions, but presents a number of facts for examination, and several ideas for consideration. These are ideas that draw the attention of the entire Western World—-as is evident from a noteworthy article in the New York Times of January 8, 1952, in which that paper’s famous military correspondent, Hanson W. Baldwin, examines the question: “Where defend Europe?”
No Operational Freedom
The Iron Curtain in Europe is a very long way west; it is no less than five times as far from the Urals as it is from Holland’s North Sea Coast. The following parallel will give a clear picture related to an American back- ground, of how acute is northwestern Europe’s lack of space. Suppose the Iron Curtain stretching from the Baltic to Czechoslovakia were located on the American Atlantic seaboard between Boston and Delaware Bay; Buffalo would be Rotterdam; Cleveland, Paris; Memphis, Madrid; and Detroit would be London.
Especially in Northern Germany, the Iron Curtain is uncomfortably close to the North Sea coast. What is a distance of 300 miles nowadays for an army with the latest equipment, particularly if it can advance through a region traversable everywhere, consisting chiefly of lowland and gently undulating hilly country?
Of course the relative strengths of the land and air forces on both sides play a predominant role, that is to say the relative strengths of the combat units ready for action the moment aggression takes place.
Prepared and Preparable Troops
In the continental countries of Western Europe standing armies of regular soldiers are unknown, and the armed forces are built up of national servicemen called up for compulsory military training. In Holland the serviceman’s basic training lasts twenty months (eighteen months in France, Belgium, and Italy). For the final part of his twenty months he is posted to a combat unit ready for immediate action.
On completion of his twenty months’ training, the serviceman returns home, but is assigned to a unit ready to be mobilized if war becomes imminent or aggression occurs. These units’ complete material, arms, equipment, and transport are kept in huge stores, and every man has clearly defined duties and knows what they are. The cadres of these units consist partly of regular soldiers.
In peacetime the serviceman who has returned to civilian life after his basic training is recalled at fixed times for refresher training in order to keep up his standard of proficiency. During refresher training, which includes mobilization training, units are formed and trained ready for mobilization.
In spite of all this, it will be obvious that mobilization in the event of aggression will take time, and that mobilized units will not be fit for immediate use as combat troops without further training. This was the reason why in 1870 (the year of the Franco-German War) and in 1914 and 1939 the Dutch Government was very quick to order mobilization so as to allow time for the mobilized units to undergo strenuous training before eventually going into the firing line.
This was possible at those times because Holland was pursuing a policy of neutrality, as Switzerland and Sweden are doing at present. In 1914 and 1939 no one saw any cause for alarm when the Dutch armed forces were mobilized because it was a purely preventive and defensive measure, and the whole world realized that this small country with its feeble armed forces really wasn’t mobilizing with any thoughts of aggression!
But now matters are different. Just as aggression in South Korea came like a bolt from the blue, we can be quite certain that any aggression in Europe will break loose without warning.
The prodigious strength of the divisions ready for instant use east of the Iron Curtain is constant evidence that the means for launching an attack are always available. Even if we were entitled to assume that a period of unmistakable tension would presage aggression from the East, the former Dutch policy of timely mobilization could not become joint NATO policy because it would not be looked upon by the other side as a safeguard but rather as an act of aggression. It would be playing right into the Russians’ hands and giving them an .excuse for attacking in “self-defense.”
This determines the policy the NATO Powers will have to adopt if faced with aggression in northwestern Europe. The troops that are ready for combat will have to fight a delaying action to gain the time needed to prepare the units awaiting mobilization. The amount of time required will vary in the different countries because their mobilization systems are not the same. Here in Holland we have always put up a very good show as regards speed in mobilizing—necessarily so in view of our country’s exposed situation.
Clearly, everything depends in the first place upon the strength of the troops held ready for action, and by “strength” I mean not only personnel strength but strength of arms, cadres, and proficiency, the latter both individually and jointly with the other NATO forces.
It is a pleasing fact that the situation is slowly beginning to look rather less menacing for us in Western Europe. We say “rather less menacing” because a few years ago things looked very gloomy indeed. How gloomy they were we were told by no less an authority than the then Chairman of the American Committee of Chiefs of Staff, General Omar Bradley, in his typically frank, matter-of-fact way. In 1948 when he was the U.S. Army Chief of Staff he said that the Russian Army of four million men with 14,000 airplanes was in a position rapidly to overrun most of Europe, the Near and Middle East, Korea and China, whereas the American fighting forces then in process of formation would only be able to act somewhere or other as a stopper.
In that year Western Europe was defenseless, and the stop line would have had to be somewhere behind the Pyrenees. Since then our part of the world has been in a much better position thanks to NATO and the Marshall Plan, although we realize that an aggressor’s first surprise attack could carry him far West of the Iron Curtain. The major question is where the attacker can be stopped after his initial thrust has been slowed down. The Rhine has been mentioned time and again in this connection and does indeed offer reasonable possibilities provided the troops mobilized in the meantime can help in defending it.
It may be of interest to glance further at this river and at Holland, where it discharges into the sea.
The Rhine Line
Between Switzerland and the point where this river crosses the Dutch frontier, about 540 kilometres (330 miles) of the Rhine cuts clean across the Russian lines of advance. Its value as an obstacle is great, especially between Bonn and the Swiss frontier where its banks are very hilly and where there are semi-mountainous areas like the Black Forest and the Vosges near by. An excellent and ancient approach route to this natural barrier is formed by the Main valley.
North of Bonn the Rhine flows through the North German lowland where conditions are more favorable for attack. It was here that the British Second Army forced the Rhine crossing in March, 1945.
After entering Holland the river turns west and separates into two parallel branches, the main one called the Waal being about 300 metres wide and the other, which continues as the Rhine and changes its name to the Lek further west, about 100 metres wide. South of and parallel with these two branches flows the Maas, a continuation of the French Meuse. Thus between Holland’s Eastern frontier and the North Sea there are three important rivers flowing side by side a short distance apart. The intervening territory is protected by heavy dikes and largely consists of open arable and pasture land with villages along the dikes in rich fruit-growing country.
At the time of the Allied push to Holland’s southern frontier in September, 1944, the First Allied Air Landing Army attempted to capture intact the bridges across the three rivers at Grave, Nijmegen, and Arnhem. They succeeded at Grave and Nijmegen but failed at Arnhem. During the entire winter of 1944-1945 it was impossible to make any more headway in this area, so readily does this territory lend itself to defense. It is very unpleasant country to fight in because large parts of it can be flooded if the dikes are breached by bombing, for instance, when the river waters are high. This is what happened in the winter of 1944-1945.
From a tactical aspect alone, by far the best way would be to extend the German Rhine defenses along this unassailable complex of rivers as far as the North Sea. This solution would require a minimum of troops.
But such problems cannot be considered from a purely tactical angle only; we are even prepared to say that tactical considerations should not prevail except as a last resort; are not tactics the art of carrying one’s strategic plan into effect under the best possible conditions? Tactics cannot be allowed to influence strategy. We shall show the disastrous consequences this would have for the NATO defenses.
Basic Strategic Principles
As early as 1949 these were expounded to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the American House of Representatives by General Bradley before he left for his European tour; his motto was: “Let every nation do the work for which its armed forces are best fitted.” He called for the following allocation of duties:
1. Strategic bombing by the United States Air Force.
2. Protection of sea routes by the United States and the nations of Western Europe, each to be responsible for safeguarding its own ports and coastlines.
3. The main land forces to be provided by the nations of Western Europe aided by other countries according to their ability to mobilize.
4. The European countries to arrange for their own air defenses and undertake close-range fighter and bomber operations.
This was General Bradley’s view. At the same time the American Secretary for Defense told the Senate Armed Forces and Foreign Relations Committees that the United States would never again have to be caught in the impasse of liberating a fully occupied Europe and that Western Europe’s armed forces would have to hold a bridgehead until American reinforcements arrived.
Since then there has been aggression in Korea, and this policy was put in practice. The North Koreans were stopped in time by American troops moved quickly from Japan, after which the troops of the Allied powers were landed and the aggressor driven back behind his frontiers. The same pattern of events will have to take place in Europe if aggression should suddenly come. But there will be one cardinal difference between Korea and Western Europe, and that is: the battle on and for the ocean supply routes which played no part in the Korean conflict will be of decisive importance for Europe. It is the second of General Bradley’s basic principles that forms the core of the strategy. In our view the Battle of the Atlantic will once again be the decisive element in a Third World War.
One must realize that land, sea, and air forces are equipped with such means of destruction—each a miracle of technology—that they can only exist in wartime provided the entire industrial capacity is engaged in maintaining and replenishing armaments and other military supplies. If there is a conflict between the two world powers, the democracies’ main industrial arsenal will be the United States. But it would be rash to claim a priori that the country with the biggest and best organized industry will be victorious; for that industry’s products will have to be carried, just like the troops, where they are needed, i.e. to Europe; and the route will have to be safeguarded whether it be by land or by sea.
For the outcome of any war will ultimately be decided by the Army, whose task it will be to drive the enemy back into their own territory; the Second World War gave sufficient proof of this. It is false to assert that the War could be won by destroying the enemy’s industry; this too is the lesson of 1939- 1945.
If ever there was an attempt to paralyze an enemy’s main industries it was the battle fought by formations of allied bombers against the German arms industry. In the first four months of 1945 alone they dropped more than 500 million tons of bombs on German arms factories; and yet the factories’ output when war ended was nearly half as much again as at January 1, 1942. And how many times greater is Russian-controlled territory than the part of Europe still in German hands in 1945?
It is not even always possible to blot out key industries; the attempted destruction of the German ball-bearing factories, for instance, was a failure. On the other hand, the attacks on the German oil industry had a well-nigh decisive effect.
Meanwhile we should remember in this connection that in order to hit a key industry we must not only be conversant with the enemy’s productive process, but must also know the very details of where plants belonging to the particular industry are located. And we can be quite certain that the enemy will contrive to give the fullest protection to such vulnerable points in his productive system by means of active air defense or simply by building them underground.
It is no use thinking a war can be won by annihilating the enemy’s industry. In the enormous areas over which industry is spread even the atom bomb would only have a localized effect.
It is our view that armies are the decisive factor. But armies can only perform their task if two things are done:
(a) if air superiority is won;
(b) if the supply route leading from industry to the armed forces is safeguarded; this route will, of course, be used to bring up personnel reinforcements as well.
The Importance of the Atlantic
The safeguarding of supply routes from American industry to Europe has twice been the problem on which the fate of the world has depended. Both from 1914 to 1918 and from 1939 to 1945 there was a struggle for mastery of the Atlantic which lasted for years despite America and Britain’s great naval superiority. When the great successes of El Alamein, “Torch,” Stalingrad, and Guadalcanal had been won about the end of 1942, and the world began to breathe again, insiders knew that the issue was by no means settled, because the tremendous losses of shipping would ultimately be unbearable. If anyone doubts the truth of this view, I suggest he read Eisenhower’s Crusade in Europe or Churchill’s Memoires, and all doubt will vanish.
The Germans realized in both wars that the strongest and best organized industry and the biggest manpower reserves were worthless if soldiers and the output of industry could not reach the battle zone. It was awareness of this fact that led to the Battle of the Atlantic which became a struggle between the technical experts and scientists of both sides who wrought, like modem magicians, the miracles of contemporary technique. To mention only a few: radio, radar, asdic, depth charges, magnetic and acoustic mines, rockets and sonobuoy apparatus, Walther turbines, and Snorkel equipment.
Strategically, Hitler created an ideal base from which to attack, stretching from the North Cape to the Franco-Spanish frontier; that he failed in spite of this is due not only to the energy and accomplishments of his opponents but also to the fact that he did not give Admiral Donitz, the U-Boat expert, a genuine chance until January, 1943, when it was too late.
We should be over optimistic if we were to think the Russians have not taken to heart the lessons of 1939-1945; any examination of probable operations in a Third World War will have to proceed from the assumption that Russian strategy will be based on a large-scale, and, if possible, annihilating attack on supply routes between America and Europe. If such an attack achieved lasting' success the Russian submarine fleet would command the ocean, with everything that that implies. And the possibility certainly exists!
A short time ago General A. M. Grunther, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, stated in an interview that the Russians had three hundred submarines at their disposal; other sources speak of plans to build a thousand. When we hear such figures quoted and recall that Germany began the war in 1939 with 75 U-boats and had only 382 early in 1943, the most critical period facing the Allies, we begin to realize that Stalin's heirs and accomplices seem to think the battle of the Atlantic might be worthwhile.
The First Blow and Maritime Counterattack
The strategy of the surprise attack practiced by Nelson at Copenhagen and by the Japanese at Port Arthur was perfected and repeated on a bigger scale by Hitler when he attacked Poland, the Low Countries, and Russia, by Japan at Pearl Harbor, and by the North Koreans against the South. And in any new conflict surprise will give the aggressor big initial advantages. General Grunther believes—and we share his views to the full—that considering the relative strengths of land, air, and submarine power Round One will undoubtedly go to the Russians, but Round Two to the Allies because their staying power is greater. The Russians must be prevented from getting so many points in Round One that the Allies enter Round Two badly battered and needing more rounds before they can deliver a knockout or win on points.
Consequently, it will be imperative to limit shipping losses from the very first day of the conflict; we can be sure that at the very hour of aggression as many Russian submarines as possible, distributed across the Atlantic, will operate against the merchant ships sailing at that moment—perhaps still unconvoyed —along the usual routes. If possible, shipping will have to be limited or diverted beforehand, but the main thing will be to get down to full-scale anti-submarine warfare without delay. There will have to be no wasted months as there were on the North American East Coast after Pearl Harbor, but a co-ordinated counterattack will have to begin immediately with intensive co-operation between sea and air forces equipped with the most perfect submarine-hunting and -killing devices.
This battle will be fought partly on the shipping routes themselves by the naval escorts and hunter-killer groups, sometimes co-operating with shore-based aircraft, but partly against enemy submarine bases and along the approach routes the enemy submarines will have to use to get from their bases to the high seas and back again. These operations will require naval bases and airfields as close as possible to the approach routes, so that ships and aircraft together can form a continuous threat.
Now there are three routes along which Russian submarines could reach the Atlantic, viz, through the Mediterranean, the Baltic, or the Barents Sea. The first, which leads through the narrow gateways of the Bosphorus, the Dardanelles, and the Straits of Gibraltar, is easy to seal off. Nor does the route through the Baltic offer very good prospects, as the Kiel Canal (one of Churchill’s headaches in 1939-1945!) can easily be put out of action and mastery of the sea between Norway and Denmark obtained. What is by far the Russian submarines’ most important operating route leads through the Barents Sea. It offers considerable opportunities and is very favorably situated for the northern ocean route: Newfoundland—Greenland—Iceland—Scotland.
Compared with the 1939-1945 period, it appears that operative opportunities for submarines to break out are strategically much poorer than they were for Hitler who controlled Western Europe’s entire coastline. Two very important inferences follow from this: firstly, the Russians will make every effort to improve their chances by occupying Norway, Denmark, and Holland; secondly, the retention of Britain as a base is a case of to-be or not-to-be for the Allies.
Is Britain Impregnable?
No less an authority than Admiral W. M. Fechteler, U.S. Navy, has said that the Battle of the Ocean will not be waged without loss, especially very early on in the conflict. This indicates that anti-submarine warfare is going to take some time to organize. The enemy will exploit this interval to the full by sinking all the ships they can and making it last as long as possible. For it is hardly conceivable that strong American convoys will cross the ocean before the first phase of the Battle of the Ocean has been decided in the Western Powers’ favor. And until it has, the armies in Western Europe will have to fend for themselves. The longer the first phase on the ocean lasts, the further the Russian armies will be able to penetrate, and the smaller will be the area still in Allied hands in Western Europe when the first American reinforcements arrive.
The best way the Russians could improve their maritime position and with it their military position as a whole, would be—besides occupying the Norwegian coast just as Hitler did in April, 1940—to eliminate Britain (just as Hitler tried to do).
But the British Isles are a tough nut to crack. Hitler’s invasion never got beyond the planning stage; the Battle of Britain was won by Britain, and from June, 1940, until June, 1941, Britain stood alone against the German armed might, although American moral and material support must not go unrecorded.
But the courageous stand of the British mother-country between 1940 and 1945 does not automatically mean that the country is unconquerable. We are convinced that the Russians would be making a fundamental error if they did not try wherever possible to prevent use being made of British harbors and airfields.
This could, of course, only be done by the Russian air force. But we can take it for granted (and we are on safe ground in doing so) that the British learned enough during the Battle of Britain to know what they will need in the way of radar equipment, anti-aircraft artillery, and day and night fighters to beat off attack by bomber squadrons. We do not believe, therefore, that the Russians will gain any decisive successes in this way.
But there is something else. What bombers and flying bombs (V l’s) failed to do, was achieved in 1944 by the V 2’s, the guided missiles which badly worried the British on account of their great moral and material effect and because the only countermeasure was the destruction of assembly plants and launching sites. The threat was so serious that all available resources were mobilized, after a mass annihilation raid had been carried out in 1943 on Penemiinde, where tests with these guided missiles were being made.
Nine productive years have elapsed since 1944, and the development of guided missiles has proceeded apace. Nevertheless, their range still seems to be limited to between 300 and 500 kilometres, which means that launching sites for bombarding Britain will have to be in Holland, Belgium, or northern France. From the coastal areas of these countries, all England and Wales is within the 500-kilometre zone. Scotland, however, is beyond it.
And by a round-about way we are back in Holland again, and back to the Rhine line.
The Importance of Holland
It will be clear that a continuation of the Rhine line straight through Holland from Arnhem to Rotterdam with its tactical advantages, is quite inconceivable strategically —if only for the reason that eighty per cent of the Dutch people would be abandoned to enemy occupation and important centres of industry would be lost to the Allies. But besides this the two huge ports of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, together with the den Helder naval base, would fall into Russian hands, while only Antwerp would be available for the Allies. As happened in 1944 and 1945, however, Antwerp could become the target for guided missiles launched in Holland. And what is more, the ports of Rotterdam, Amsterdam (Ijmuiden), and den Hel- der would give the enemy three first-rate submarine bases. And not less than eight large airfields, including Schiphol Airport, would be placed at their disposal. And lastly, the Dutch coastal tract, heavily wooded behind the dunes, would again, as in 1944, provide ideal cover for launching guided missiles.
The old saying that the Dutch coast is like a loaded pistol pointed at England’s breast is as true as ever, especially in view of the greater sphere of operations of modern weapons; and so is Hanson Baldwin’s statement that Britain’s eastern frontier is on the Rhine. It is no overstatement to say that retention of the coastal areas of the Low Countries is a matter of life and death for the Allies, first because lethal blows can be delivered from these countries against Britain, but also because the debarkation ports and the airfields they contain will be badly needed by the Allies themselves.
What Can Russia Do?
Russia will certainly do everything she can to lay hands on the Dutch coast as quickly as possible. Not only will this give her the advantages mentioned above, but she can also have an absolute guarantee of safety for the northwestern flank of her armies preparing to break through the Rhine- line, by occupying the same positions between Arnhem and the North Sea as the Germans did in winter 1944-1945, which at that time proved impregnable.
Conversely it will be of inestimable advantage to the NATO Powers if, by holding Holland north of the Maas—Waal—Rhine barrier, they can occupy a bridgehead on the right bank of the Rhine to threaten the right flank of the Russian armies operating against the German Rhine.
The same idea of operative action by the NATO armies on the flank of a Russian advance-front through Germany forms the basis of the scheme advanced by the German General Speidel. He wants the offensive flanking operations to be based on the mountainous areas of southern Germany and on northwestern Germany and adjacent Holland. But he advocates these ideas on the assumption that adequate West German forces will be built up before the period in which the formation of the NATO armies can be completed. This will still take some time, and in the interim transitional measures will be needed, narrower in their scope but such that they fit logically into the ultimate plan. Our view is that Holland is the best place to start putting General Speidel’s strategy into effect, the plans afterwards being gradually extended and perfected by the inclusion of German territory. Further explanation of why we regard Holland as of primary strategical importance is unnecessary after the foregoing line of argument. It should be examined, however, whether the terrain in Holland makes the strategic plan really feasible. We shall return to this aspect later, but would first point out that the Russians could speed up their occupation of northern Holland by combining their advance through north Germany with a sudden attack on the ports, airfields, and strategic communications by means of surprise operations from the sea and by parachute and air landing units.
Opportunities in Holland
Sketch C shows how an offshoot of the Rhine flows north from Arnhem to the Ijsselmeer (once the Zuider Zee). Known as the Ijssel, it is about 100 metres wide and seals off the coastal region south of the Ijsselmeer. Basing the defense behind this river would itself bring great advantages, although it must be admitted that the Ijssel is not an ideal strategic line. It is too close-to the North Sea for that but ... it is more than 400 kilometres from Britain’s East Coast!
North of the Ijssel, however, the enemy can still reach the Dutch coast via the provinces of Groningen, Drenthe, and Friesland and across the Ijsselmeer and/or the famous Afsluitdijk, enabling them at the same time to attack the Ijssel defenses from the rear. By defending these three northern provinces in co-ordination with the Ijssel, excellent prospects appear for the NATO Powers, because Britain’s safety would be practically assured. The provinces of Groningen and Friesland which are intersected by numerous canals and can be partly inundated, are excellent—especially in the Frisian lake district—for tenacious and mobile water, land, and air defense, especially if a general with imagination is in command.
When the Allies advanced from Overijssel to Groningen in the spring of 1945, they had to drop parachute troops in Drenthe in order to gain timely control of the countless bridges in that province. Even so, there was stubborn fighting in and around Groningen and Delfzijl—and at that time the Germans were not strong.
Sketch C shows areas below sea level at high-tide and below river level in winter. Throughout this entire area, known as polder land, surplus water draining into the polders is drawn off by pumping stations into canals in which the water is higher than the polder land. The level of the canals is kept down because they empty their excess water into the sea at low tide, or else pumping stations discharge it into sea or river. Water conservancy in the polder areas is unusually complex; there are thousands of small locks and sluices, wind-driven, electric and steam-driven water-pumps, and countless dikes. The land intersected by the roads is a network of ditches and drainage canals from 2 to 20 metres wide (but sometimes, as in Friesland, as much as 100 metres wide), with soggy banks; it can only be crossed by soldiers on foot without vehicles. Any wheeled transport is absolutely dependent on the roads—on which there are many, many bridges.
In this low-lying territory, the defenders can flood certain polders. With their peaty and clayey subsoil they would be impassable.
Holland’s defenses used to be based on holding such inundated lines (See Sketch C). In those days the polders were impregnable (except when they were frozen). Nowadays matters are different because an invader can bomb dikes or sluices, taking water-control out of the defenders’ hands, and turning the water, our one-time ally, into our enemy. We have accordingly abandoned the old defensive line. In Friesland and Groningen, however, the position is different and we can still form an alliance with the water with considerable success.
It is obvious that enemy parachutists and the fifth column can give a lot of trouble in these areas by occupying important points. Energetic territorial defense and a strong and reliable Home Guard will be required, in addition to powerful air defense with artillery and fighter planes.
One problem is the great density of population in the two provinces of Noord Holland and Zuid Holland. As it is, the density is very high for the country as a whole, viz. 300 people to the square kilometre, but in these two provinces it is nearly twice that. People are packed together in the towns located in the polder country or in the narrow strip of sandy country behind the coastal dunes (the famous bulbland). This situation would, of course, be intolerable in war-time because the people would be threatened not only by bomber attack but would also be risking death by drowning or starvation if the enemy bombed sea or river dikes (as the Royal Air Force did in Walcheren in 1944).
It is, after all, the NATO Supreme Commander who has to prepare a strategic plan in accordance with currently available resources. This plan will change as available resources are augmented; it will develop into an “ideal plan,” hoped to be capable of realization at a future date. We trust we have been able to demonstrate that Dutch territory will have an important part to play in those plans and will have to be included in them as quickly as possible. In our country preparations for defending and evacuating given areas will have to be begun earlier still, for all this takes time, and time may be badly needed.
Lastly, we hope that recognition of the strategic importance of our country will result in our being allocated substantial—and priority—American aid in arms and equipment. We are looking forward to this eagerly in view of our country’s exposed position. For we know from what happened in 1940 how hopeless it is to have to fight poorly armed against a modern enemy; and we prefer anything to a repetition of such events with their five years’ aftermath of misery under enemy occupation. Our nation’s age old love of freedom is too great for that.