The Dutch National Military Museum was opened on December 11, 2014,by His Majesty Willem Alexander, King of the Netherlands.
Since then the museum has been a resounding success – visitors of all age groups crowd the spacious halls and grounds. The museum is situated at the former Soesterberg Air Base once the home of the ‘Wolfhounds’, the USAF 32nd Fighter Interceptor Squadron.
The museum offers a large collection of army and air force exhibits and it is heart-warming to see the gleam in the eyes of older people when they explain the workings of a truck or a piece of equipment to their kids or grandchildren…
The museum has taken over the collection initially exhibited at the former Air Force Museum at Camp Zeist. Not everything is on display but to my joy there is a special corner for equipment used by the Dutch East Indies Air Force and Navy.
And here you’ll find a wonderful replica of a Brewster B339D ‘Buffalo’ in the markings of 2-VLG-V, complete with squadron badge.
The name ‘Bruggink’ stencilled on the nose indicates one of the four pilots that flew the last operational mission with Buffaloes against Japanese invaders on March 7, 1942.
Sergeant (later 1st Lieutenant) Gerard Bruggink managed to evade the standing Japanese fighter patrol over Andir airfield and, together with Captain ‘Piet’ van Helsdingen , reach the Lembang area. They were soon dogfighting six Zeroes and van Helsdingen was shot down and killed. Bruggink managed to escape into the clouds and returned to Andir airfield in a tropical rainstorm. (See also my post ‘Dutch Buffaloes – the last fight)
Bruggink was made prisoner by the Japanese and was later sent to work on the infamous Burma railway. He survived the atrocities and served in the Dutch air force until 1955. That year he emigrated the US where he worked in Texas as a flight instructor and accident investigator. He died in 2005.