Toespraak minister Bijleveld bij de uitreiking van de Korean War Service Medal

Good evening and welcome,

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
On the 17th of March, 1953, the British Navy asked for 3 volunteers from the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Netherlands Navy.
They asked for experienced Hawker Sea Fury pilots, to be posted to the aircraft carrier HMS Ocean in the Yellow Sea.

Three young men raised their hands:
Ernst van Crugten, 30 years old;
Guus Hagdorn, 27 years old;
and Jan Mulder, 28 years old.
Just a few weeks after this request, they were on their way.

On HMS Ocean, they joined 807 Squadron.
Their job was to support the troops on the ground,
and to disrupt the enemy supply lines.
They served during a relatively peaceful time…the most heated conflict of the Cold War was cooling down.
But it wasn’t peaceful and without risk just yet.

They were catapulted in their propeller fighter planes,
often into the dark of the night.
Taking maps, knives, guns and bombs with them.
And books about how to cook frogs and snakes,
in case they crashed…
If the catapult was not working, they would use rocket-assisted take-off gear.
We must remember that it was not without risk, manoeuvring a propeller-driven fighter bomber, on and from this small space…a tiny dot in a vast ocean.
The men were shot at from the ground…bullets and shrapnel came close…but they were not hit.
During this period of service, they were able to hurt the enemy by destroying tunnels and bridges and disrupting the transport of explosives.
Captain Hagdorn was even able to destroy 2 bridges in one flight.

The 3 Dutch men served with 807 Squadron for over half a year.
In total, each of them completed 58 offensive flights.
It was an experience that Captain Hagdorn would later call
useful and instructive.

But little attention was paid to their service.
They experienced the tail end of the Korean War…known to some – to this day – as ‘the forgotten war’.

So it’s very important that we keep telling their stories.

Because theirs is a story of allies, of sticking up for one another.
A story of serving peace, miles away from home.
A story of bravery… of raising your hand when asked: who wants to help?

I know that Captain Hagdorn, present with us here today, would raise his hand again, even now.
Because I’ve heard that you like to say to people: “I’m still of fighting spirit!”

I’m honoured that you are here today, Captain Hagdorn.
And I’m pleased to meet the widow of Lieutenant Commander Jan Mulder, Mrs Marijcke Mulder-Van Vuuren.
You describe your late husband as a very strong and modest man, who shared very little about his time in the military.
One of the few things he told you about his time in Korea was:
“I wanted to contribute to peace and security.”
And you understood exactly what he meant…because you had spent 3 years in a Japanese internment camp yourself.
So the value of freedom was more than clear to you.
Thank you for being here, Mrs Mulder-van Vuuren, with your family.

I understand that Mrs Tjallie van Crugten-Otte, the widow of Lieutenant Commander Ernst Van Crugten, lives in Australia.
There will be a ceremony in Australia, with her family, to award the Medal to her husband posthumously.
Nevertheless, I wanted to mention all three men today…because they served together, after all.

We are here today to commemorate the bravery of these men,
66 years on, as they receive the Korean War Service Medal.

We are here to celebrate the friendship between our nations.

And above all, we are here to reflect together…and to appreciate how much we depend, today as in the past,
on the men and women who raise their hands when asked to serve…who rise to the opportunity to protect what we cherish:
our freedom and security.

To these three men and their families, I would like to say:
thank you for raising your hand…and thank y