During the war John Althuizen, now 85 years old, was known as Johnnie the Dutchman. John grew up in Deurne, a small village in the south of the Netherlands. During the German occupation of the Netherlands, John was like many others forced to go into hiding because the German Army was looking for men to work in Germany. While he was hiding out he worked as a courier of messages for the Dutch resistance. When the American 7th Armored Division liberated Deurne in october 1944, he decided to go with them. The commander of the 23rd Armored Infantry Battalion insisted that he first had to have a written note of his parents with a signature before he could join them. His parents agreed and thought, he will soon be back. But they were mistaken, John, or Johnnie the Dutchman as his fellow soldiers would call him, went along the ride and did not come back. At least not for a long time. John was then involved in the ‘Battle of the Peel”, his unit was in Liessel, Griendtsveen, Asten and Meijel. After this battle his unit moved to the south of the Netherlands to rest. New replacements were coming in and there was time to train and to relax. But on the 16th of December 1944, the German Army unleashed a huge attack in the direction of Antwerp, that was vital for the logistics of the allied army. Later the attack became known as “The Battle of the Bulge”. The 23rd Armored Infantry was engaged in heavy battle under the most heavy circumstances. John’s fellow soldiers always tried to keep him safe. But then foreign volunteers were then sent home, because there were German soldiers dressed up like American soldiers trying to infiltrate the lines. But not Johnnie, he was allowed to stay with his unit. John was wounded at his hand by shrapnel and he also had mild frostbitten feet. He returned to his company (B), who was then at Henri-Chapelle (Belgium).
After the battle was won, the unit moved into Germany where John and his friends were in combat at Konzen, Germany. He fought with his company before and after crossing the Rhine river. He received multiple wounds on April 12, 1945, the day President Roosevelt died, while fighting in the Ruhrpocket Colmar, and John was evacuated to a hospital in Paris. He returned in his outfit in Halle, Germany and stayed behind as an interpreter in the 12th Constabulary Squadron after the 7th Armored Division transferred to the United States. He travelled to the United States in December 1946 to San Francisco, worked as an accountant and studied landscape designing. He owned his own landscape business and still resides in Novato, California with his wife Jeanne, children and grandchildren. In September 2010 he and his wife Jeanne visited the Sherman tank at Sambeek that is now restored.
They were the first members of the 7th Armored Division Association that saw the tank and the work in progress.
John is wearing his "Purple Heart" with pride.
John and Jeanne, thanks for your friendship.
Pictures: Niek HendrixClick images to enlarge.