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Soesterberg Air Force Memorial

The connection between Soesterberg and the United States Air Force

The 32nd Fighter Squadron

For 40 years at Soesterberg Airbase

Garagesales and Barbecues

From garage sales, football matches to barbecues

F-15 Eagle

Lust and burden within Soesterberg's airspace

Halloween

To date a festival in Soesterberg

‘‘The idea is to place something that not only the residents of Soesterberg will like, but also something for the Americans that make return visits to be able to look at and think: 'Oh yes, that’s about us'. I also want people to be able to participate, that it will be something not only to look at , but that you can be a part of.” That is what the Soester artist Chris Rodenburg (56) says about the two part monument that he has designed, commisioned by the SAM (Soesterberg Air force Memorial), to be placed in the park on the roof of the tunnel over the Amersfoortsestraat.

It must be a memorial to, and in honour of, the Americans who served here from 1954 till 1994, working at Soesterberg Airbase and living in the village. It is composed of three aluminium panels, on the left the first fighter jets flown by the Americans at Soesterberg, in the middle the runway that has now been taken over by the skylark, and on the right the F-15, the aircraft in use at the end of the period that the Americans were stationed at Soesterberg. For this panel Rodenburg has used the silhouettes that are on the door of the Zulu hangar, a building that still exists today. The panels stand next to each other, in memory of the Berlin Wall, which led to the Americans coming to Soesterberg.

In addition there will be a group of rusty silhouettes of a group of Americans taking part in a typical ‘yard sale’, elements that can be recognised such as the barbecue, the wolfhound (the mascot of the 32nd Fighter Squadron), Halloween, a group of friends playing basketball, a cheerleader and a baseball player, a family with a bowling ball and a serviceman with his hand on his heart whilst listening to the National Anthem. During those years people got married, children were born and people died. In the centre stands the Regal Linden tree with carvings on the trunk of a heart, a stork and a cross representing love, birth and death. There is also someone holding a tulip and behind the tree is a couple in love.

Rodenburg says that as well as being part of the monument by walking between the various elements, it is also possible to look at it whilst sitting on one of three benches that are situated facing the park. The benches have a back rest depicting the silhouette of a typical American Cadillac. “It is as if you are sitting in the the car looking at the park. On the registration plates you find the letters GN (Geen Nederlanders, Non Dutch), the first two letters of the registration plate of every car that was driven by the Americans during their time here”.

Rodenburg found the human, social aspects of the Americans in Soesterberg interesting “because Soesterberg was always considered the airbase as such. But 4000 Americans lived in the village and surrounding area. I pondered over how I could represent that aspect. I took myself back in time to that period, 1954. The Netherlands was only just completing the post war recovery. I heard the stories of that time as I was still to be born. Life was sober. There wasn’t much. And then along come the Americans. They were physically bigger, more lively, had a completely different lifestyle. That must have brought about something, that must have been something special”.

As an example, Soesterbergers and Americans met each other during Halloween celebrations and on Queen’s Day. “I told people what I was going to do and the reaction was always: 'Oh yes, those Americans'. There was a sort of twinkle, surrounded by energy. And everyone has their own memories of that time. To revive those memories in response to what they see here, that is what I hope to achieve. I have tried to put that feeling into the monument.”

Source: Soester Courant

Artist Chris Rodenburg from Soest has designed three extraordinary panels for the park that is to be laid on the roof of the tunnel over the Amersfoortsestraat. The panels will show representations which include the aircraft that the Americans flew at Soesterberg, the F-86 Sabre, F -00 Super Sabre, Convair F-102 Delta Dagger, McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom and the F-15 Eagle. In addition there will be representations of Americans shopping, taking part in sports or enjoying a barbecue.

This decorative addition to the more than 200 metre long, green flyover is a reminder of the presence of the United States Air Force on part of Soesterberg Air Base, Camp New Amsterdam (CNA). A number of residents of Soesterberg formed the Soesterberg Air force Memorial Foundation (SAM) and have worked towards fulfilling the plan for a memorial. With the co-operation of the Soest Town Council and the Royal Netherlands Air Force there will even be an aircraft to be seen, possibly a Cougar Helicopter.

This will be the second aircraft that will be placed in Soesterberg, the birthplace of Dutch and military aviation. Recently a replica of the Brik aircraft was placed at the centre of the Tammer roundabout on the Amersfoortsestraat, the Brik was built by aviation pioneer Marinus van Meel in 1913. The Brik was the first aircraft of the Army Aviation Deapartment.

Memorial
The SAM Foundation saw an excellent opportunity to place a monument in the park that was to be laid, a memorial to the American presence in Soesterberg. The airfield was a NATO base of the American 32nd Fighter Squadron from 1954 till 1994. A completely new housing estate was built for the Americans, unique in the Netherlands and probably in Europe. The end of the Cold War has a very special meaning for Soesterberg, this is taking form in the park.

Planning
On Monday 18th September 2017 preparatory work for the laying of the park was started. This will be carried out by KWS Infra b.v., the same company that built the flyover. The park is expected to be completed before the end of the year. Soest Town Council has reserved 400,000 euros for the realisation of the park. Once the work and decor have been completed this will form not only a reinforcement of the green character of the village, but moreover a green link between the two parts of the village, the heart of the village and Soesterberg North and the Air Base Park.

Design
Those living around the park were also consulted in the design phase. The starting point was that the roof of the tunnel should not be too heavily loaded with building work. Therefore a choice has been made for a park where it will be possible to pause and take note as well as a place to walk for both children and adults. The positioning of an aircraft, the panels and the unusual park benches will create a special place in Soesterberg. On the far side of the flyover this can already be seen. On one side of the Field Marshall Montgomery Way distinctive metal fencing has been erected, designed by a group of creative employees of Design and Engineering Bureau ipv in Delft. It is made up of open metalwork panels in which along with many trees a number of aircraft can be seen.

Source: Soester Courant

Donations

The monument is a citizen’s initiative and the realisation of the Soesterberg Air Force Memorial is only possible thanks to the generosity of donors. Residents, former Wolfhounds, large or small businesses, former suppliers or US companies that were once associated with this illustrious period are welcome on our donation page!

Expectations

The monument will strengthen the historical connection and awareness between Soesterberg and that memorable period between 1954 and 1994; Forty years when the 32nd Fighter Squadron of USAF provided an American presence in the village of Soesterberg.

Recommendation

  • Mr. Rob Metz (Mayor Soest)
  • Mr. Koos Janssen (Mayor Zeist)
  • Mr. Theo Ruijs (director Figi Zeist)

Staff

  • Mr. Christopher Lorraine (Chairman)
  • Mr. Piet Taai
  • Mr. Cor Sukking
  • Mr. Carel Bense
  • Mr. Dick Wels
  • Mr. Gerrit van Rheenen
  • Mrs. Cynthia Wilson
  • Mr. Cor Brinkers
  • Mr. Wim Harmsen

 

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Artist Chris Rodenburg from Soest has designed three extraordinary panels for the park that is to be...

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