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Soesterberg: The Forgotten Dutch Airfield Where American Planes Stood Guard Against Soviet MiGs

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by Heath Hansen

A forgotten Dutch airfield that served as a deterrent to Soviet air power during the Cold War was remembered anew at a recent ceremony to commemorate the site’s storied history.

People in the area convened on Sept. 17  for the official unveiling of the Soesterberg Air Force Memorial. Located east of Utrecht, The Netherlands, this base was originally opened for American Air Force operations in 1954, to bolster America’s presence in Europe during the Cold War. 

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The base was occupied during World War II by the German Luftwaffe. Used offensively for bombing operations, and defensively against Allied aircraft, it increasingly became the target for Allied attacks throughout the war. Eventually in 1945, the base was liberated by the Canadian Army, and was turned back over to the Dutch military.

Home to the 32nd Tactical Fighter Squadron Wolfhounds, Soesterberg Air Base boasted quite a few different planes throughout the decades. From the F-86 Sabre in 1954, to the F-4 Phantom in 1964, all the way to the F-15 in the early 90’s, the Air Force ensured the most technologically advanced planes were on display for the Soviets to see during the Cold War.

Shortly after the Cold War ended, military officials determined Soesterberg would no longer function as an active Air Force base; and, in 1994, closed down American operations in that sector. 

For four decades Soesterberg acted as a deterrent to Soviet air power in Western Europe. The unveiling of the memorial serves as a testament to the effectiveness of the air base, and the servicemen and women who made it all possible. Many of those service members retired out of Soesterberg and decided to make The Netherlands their permanent home. Decades later, they have become Dutch residents, raised families, and started new careers, but remain proud, American veterans with a special tie to this area.

Many of the veterans who served at Soesterberg attended the ceremony, including Staff Sergeant (ret.) Jesse Bustamante, who helped organize the event. Bustamante addressed the crowd of spectators and explained the history of the air base and the legacy it leaves.

Staff Sergeant (ret.) Jesse Bustamante

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