Best pilot

Discussion in 'Stories' started by Marcel, Jan 1, 2009.

  1. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    Some months ago there was a discussion about the “best fighter pilot of WWII”. In this discussion I stated that you would never be able to define such scientifically as there would always be the unknown. As an example I used my countryman Gerben Sonderman. Most who know about him would say that he ranks between the best pilots his era. But he is rather unknown outside my country. Reason for this is quite simple:
    1> He came from a small, insignificant country
    2> He only made one combat mission
    As I realised not many people know about him, I decided to write this (although it hardly does him justice). Consider this a tribute to the best Dutch pilot ever.

    Born in 1908, Gerben Sonderman served in the Dutch navy in 1929-1930. After that he learned to fly. He had considerable talent for that. IN 1935 he was accepted by the LVA (Dutch airforce) despite the fact that he was already 26. He became best known as chief testpilot for Fokker, where he tested all the new a/c, like the G.I, D.XXI, D.XXIII, T.V, T.IX etc. While being testpilot, he was still in the LVA, assigned to 3rd JaVA, flying G.I’s from Rotterdam Waalhaven.

    On May 10th, at around 3.55h, He111’s attacked Waalhave airport. Gerben Sonderman was one of the 3 pilots “on alert”. Sonderman was already in his cockpit (G.I 311) when his gunner sgt. Holwerda arrived at the a/c. They had never met before, as Holwerda was just transferred to the 3rd Java the day before. Not knowing who the man was, Sonderman signaled Holwerda to take away the chocks. Sonderman immediately taxied away, giving Holwerda hardly the chance to climb in his seat. As soon as he had taken off, Sonderman found a Ju52 above him, which he shot down. As soon as he shot the Ju52, he got some Bf109E’s on his tail. His radio was shot to pieces, but Sonderman could maneuver out of his position and somehow managed to appear again behind the Bf109’s. One Bf109 was shot on fire, after which it fell into the Rotterdam Harbor.
    Meanwhile, Holwerda in the back didn’t know what was happening. He was not used to Sonderman’s precise and brilliant way of flying. He was only able to brace himself and never fired the gun.
    Sonderman was attacked again by many Bf109’s, but he managed to avoid them. One Bf109 did a head on pass on the G.I. Sonderman avoided collision and while doing so shot down this Bf109 as well.
    Sonderman withdrew to save some ammunition and flew in formation with 2 other G.I’s (328 and 334). West of Rotterdam, Sonderman spotted a He111 which he attacked. The He111 made an emergency landing near Rockanje. (Sonderman never claimed this victory).
    Waalhaven being occupied by German paratroopers, Sonderman had no choice then to land the G.I on the beach without fuel. There the aircraft was later destroyed by German bombing.

    Sonderman didn’t fly again in may 1940. He got a special assignment to go to Belgium. Sonderman decided to stay in occupied territory and became later a major player in the Dutch resistance. of to After the war, he became Prince Bernhard’s personal pilot and also resumed his duties at Fokker. He made fame by his daring and precisely flown demo’s. While demonstrating the S.14 jet trainer for Rockwell in the USA, Gerben Sonderman died in a crash. It is speculated that he suffered from a bleeding in his brain, becoming unconscious, while performing a vrille.

    Quotes:
    Sonderman after the war about his flight:
    Sonderman received many awards. Amongst others:
    The King’s medal for courage (GB)
    Bronzen leeuw (NL)
    Medal of freedom (USA)
    Ridder in de order van Oranje Nassau (Knighthood, NL)
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Source: Gerben Sonderman, Testpiloot van Fokker, Verzetsman, vlieger van de prins, Th de Jongh
     
  2. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Marcel. I was guilty of not knowing who he was, thanks for the heads up !!!
     
  3. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    So was I. Enjoyable reading as well, certainly sounds like he was an amazing pilot.
     
  4. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    :lol: I believe he was quite famous among test pilots, but not outside that small world.
    Found a picture with him with a rare bird, a D.XXIII and one of the designers:
     

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  5. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    A very interesting read Marcel, thank you.
     
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