A Polite Request for a Bicycle
Today’s post is written by Megan Dwyre, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park
“Hans Smit Duyzenkunst lent his bicycle for the evaders transport, but never got it back. He request you politely for an other bicycle.”
While working on a reference request, I came across this claim from the file for Hans Smit Duyzenkunst in the series Case Files of Dutch Citizens Proposed for Awards for Assisting American Airmen, 1945-1947 (National Archives Identifier 5709392), informally known as the “Dutch Helper Files.”
The case files, compiled by the Award Branch of the U.S. Army’s Military Intelligence Service, Escape and Evasion Section (MIS-X), contain information on civilians in formerly occupied areas of Western Europe who aided Allied servicemen in escaping and evading the enemy during World War II. Some civilian helpers were part of organized escape lines, while others were simply friendly citizens who crossed paths with Allied servicemen in need.
I returned to the case file and discovered that Hans was part of an organized escape line, described as “the group Hoogland.” According to his file, in addition to giving his bicycle, Hans provided temporary shelter and food to approximately eight evaders and personally transported them to subsequent sheltering addresses.
The aid he provided could have brought dire consequences to Hans. According to MIS-X, retribution for underground activities was particularly vengeful in Holland, where “pilot-helping was considered from the start of the occupation as serious an offense as espionage,” and likewise punishable by death. A 1943 bulletin on escape and evasion stressed this fact – “Anyone who helps, risks death,” instructing would-be evaders to protect any helpers “with the greatest care.” Despite such risks, the only thing Hans requested in his claim was a replacement bicycle. The case file notes that he received a Grade 5 award, but I wondered – did he ever get the bicycle?
According to the case file, Hans’ award was decided at Conference No. 10 on October 19, 1945. Representatives from the British and American offices attended weekly joint conferences to discuss and confirm award grades. Agreement was necessary to ensure that helpers would “not be given the impression that one country prized their work more highly than the other.” I searched the series Minutes of Conferences Concerned with Granting Awards to Dutch Citizens for Assisting Allied Airmen, 1945-1947 (NAID 5709386) and located the minutes of Conference No. 10, which confirmed that Hans received a Grade 5 award. A “+” symbol appears next to his name, with the explanation that those helpers “will receive one bicycle from the American Section at helpers’ own request.” It seems that Hans’ polite request was fulfilled.
 “Smit Duyzenkunst, Hans,” Entry UD 183, Case Files of Dutch Citizens Proposed for Awards for Assisting American Airmen, 1945-1947; Records of Headquarters, European Theater of Operations, United States Army, Record Group 498 (NAID 5709392)
 Holland Office, 6801 MIS-X Detachment, Military Intelligence Service, U.S. Army to HQ 6801 MIS-X Detachment, 28 June 1946, “Continuation of history of the Holland Office. Period January 1, 1946 to June 30, 1946,” Page 7; Entry UD 126, MIS-X General Correspondence Files, 1942-1947; RG 498 (NAID 5687139)
 “Bulletin No. 5 – Evasion and Escape,” Page 3; HQ ETOUSA Office of Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, MIS Detachment Bulletins on Security – Evasion – Escape, Set No. 27, 1943; Entry UD 148, MIS-X Security Bulletins, 1943-1946; RG 498 ( NAID 5694231)