- The Washington Times - Monday, May 19, 2008

BARTON, Md. (AP) — When John Althuizen was 15 he went underground in his native Netherlands for 18 months during World War II, instead of reporting for forced labor in Germany.

The group Mr. Althuizen was with aided Allies when their planes were shot down by German forces. He and others would ride their bikes to find those who parachuted to safety, put them on the back seat and pedal them to a farm, where the fliers stayed in a grain silo.

After Holland was liberated, those who had gone underground were given jobs to keep the peace.

The U.S. Army’s 7th Armored Division was there. And Mr. Althuizen, who began talking to the soldiers, eventually was asked to join their unit.

He met Roy Dawson, of Barton, in Western Maryland, on Oct. 22, 1944.

“I remember because I’m a little younger,” the 82-year-old Mr. Althuizen, who now lives in California, said as he sat in Mr. Dawson’s home recently.

The war buddies have remained good friends over the decades. They chat often, and Mr. Dawson receives a card when the Althuizens visit Holland, which is every June. They also see each other yearly at the division’s reunions.

During last year’s reunion, the Althuizens vowed to visit Mr. Dawson.

“I’d promised them 30 or 40 years ago we’d come,” Mr. Althuizen said.

He and his wife, Jeanne, spent two days with Mr. Dawson, during which they enjoyed reminiscing about the war.

Mr. Althuizen and Mr. Dawson took part in the Battle of the Bulge. Mr. Althuizen was a private and wounded twice during the war and received a Purple Heart. Mr. Dawson was a staff sergeant and “made it through the whole war with not one scratch.”

Mr. Dawson lives a few doors down from where he was born. He didn’t have a choice about joining the Army and said the war was not something for which he would have volunteered.

After the war ended, Mr. Althuizen wanted to come to the United States but wasn’t able to until November 1946. Arriving in San Francisco with 25 cents to his name, he first became a busboy in a hotel before marrying and becoming a landscape designer and contractor.

After the death of his first wife, he married Jeanne in 1962 and had four children. Both have family in Holland and visit there every year.

When Mr. Dawson returned from the war, he worked in coal mines, then the Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. until retiring in 1979. His wife, Jane, died in 1998.

The buddies hope to see each other in September, in Nashville, Tenn., where members of the 7th Armored Division will gather. Mr. Dawson, who is a few weeks shy of 92, doesn’t want to drive that far. He hopes to find someone to take him there.

“I just hope I can get there this year,” he said. “There’s not many of us left.”

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