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Eijsden farm first Dutch home liberated by American soldiers

On September 12, 1944

Tags: World War II

EIJSDEN, the Netherlands - A farmstead in this southern-most Limburg community became the first Dutch home to be liberated in 1944. In the early dawn hours of September 12, residents at the Muggehof farm saw approaching U.S. Army soldiers, who earlier had crossed the nearby Meuse river. The Smeets family was told to seek temporary shelter elsewhere as the soldiers expected heavy fighting.

The farm, which almost straddles the border with Belgium, had been occupied by a contingent of Germans a day earlier. As soon as U.S. soldiers crossed into Dutch territory at nearby Mersch, the German troops abandoned their Muggehof position, a sign for the Smeets family that the occupation was nearly over. The impending liberation also was heralded by the sounds and sight of a reconnaissance plane that circled the area, coordinating Allied artillery shelling.

In occupied the Netherlands, news of the Allied advances in Belgium had been talked about for weeks prior to the actual appearance of U.S. Army units. Near Eijsden, in the Belgian town of Visé, a Meuse bridge had been blown up by aerial bombardment on August 18, killing an Eijsden man, who had been fishing on the riverbank.

Although the first Allied incursion was swift, hastily fortified German units stood to fight and managed to hold off advances for most of the day. When the Smeets family returned home on September 13 to milk their cows, the Allied units had been reinforced, while most of Eijsden had been liberated and a field hospital set up in a local bar. Café ‘De Greune Mèrt' (the green market square) still serves as a reminder of the events of sixty years ago. Some of the villagers, who witnessed the Liberation, meet regularly, and especially this past September to reminish about the 1944 events.