Chris-Craft Boats and the D-Day Landings

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces clamored over the sides of large troop ships into 4126 landing craft, many of those LCVPs (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel), and prepared to storm several beaches of northern France in Operation Overlord, better known as D-Day. Preparation for this day started in the early 1942 as companies throughout the United States converted their factories from peacetime to wartime production. In Michigan, all three Chris-Craft Corporation plants quickly converted from pleasure boat building to building boats for the war effort full time. Together, the three plants would become part of the America’s arsenal of democracy from 1941-1945 producing more than 12,000 landing craft for D-Day and other invasions.

Learn more about the Chris-Craft Corporation’s role in winning the war in the July/August 2019 Michigan History magazine available in many Michigan bookstores and from The Historical Society of Michigan.

Lives of Early Christian Reformed Church Wives

The Holland Area Historical Society will host a program titled “For Better, For Worse: Stories of the Wives of Early Pastors of the Christian Reformed Church” on Tuesday, June 11 at 7:30 p.m. The presentation will be held in the Maas Auditorium, Maas Conference Center, Hope College, Holland, Michigan. Maas Auditorium is located at 264 Columbia Avenue on the Hope College campus. The public is invited, and admission is free.

The Christian Reformed Church in North America was founded in 1857 and the lives of its pastors have been well documented, while the stories of their wives have been sadly ignored. Join historian Janet Sjaarda Sheeres as she brings the challenges of these important women to light for the first time.

Big Red Lighthouse: Aid to Navigation to Local Icon


HOLLAND — The Holland Area Historical Society will host a program titled “Big Red Lighthouse: Aid to Navigation to Local Icon” on Tuesday, April 9 at 7:30 p.m.

Big Red lighthouse hasn’t always been big or red. Join local historians John Gronberg and Valerie van Heest as we learn more about this local icon over time and its importance to Lake Michigan navigation and Holland history.

The presentation will be held in the Maas Auditorium, Maas Conference Center, Hope College, Holland, Michigan. Maas Auditorium is located at 264 Columbia Avenue on the Hope College campus. The public is invited, and admission is free.


History of Design at Herman Miller Program

A program titled “History of Design at Herman Miller” will be hosted by the Holland Area Historical Society on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 , at 7:30 p.m., at the Maas Center Auditorium, Hope College, 264 Columbia Avenue, Holland. This program is free to the public.

The Herman Miller furniture line began in 1923 when an ambitious Dirk Jan De Pree found himself at the helm of a new furniture company in Zeeland, Michigan. Join Amy Auscherman, corporate archivist for Herman Miller, as she presents the history of the company’s product design and the influence it has had in the furniture history overall.

How Much Dutch: The Linguistic Landscape of Holland, Michigan



The Holland Area Historical Society will host a program titled “How Much Dutch: The Linguistic Landscape of Holland, Michigan” on Tuesday, February 12 at 7:30 p.m. The presentation will be held in the Maas Auditorium, Maas Conference Center, Hope College, Holland, Michigan.

Maas Auditorium is located at 264 Columbia Avenue on the Hope College campus. The public is invited, and admission is free.

Dutch language and culture have been part of Holland since early settlers came in 1847 and play an important part in the local economy. Join Dr. Kathryn Remlinger as she presents her findings on how language use and cultural objects communicate meanings that reimagine Holland as a “Dutch” city.

World War I Soldier’s Journal, November 11-12, 1918

Today we read about Thomas Vander Veen’s military activities in France and thoughts on the end of The Great War from November 11-12, 1918 along with Natalie Fulk’s comments and a summary of his life after the war.

Monday, Nov. 11:
● “We finally found our organization back again…in the woods in German barracks somewhere between St. Mihiel and Metn. We left Vertusey… at about 7:30 AM and were on the way hiking all day and it was getting dark when we got here. We marched slow this time and so it was not so very hard but our pack was getting pretty heavy on our back and shoulders. We were lucky we did not have our Lt. Col. to set the pace. We heard many rumors about the armistice being signed and the Frenchman we met all said too “le Guerre finis” but we could hardly believe it yet as we could hear the big guns still pounding away but we then were told they were to stop at 11 A.M. so we watched for it to stop at that time and they ceased firing too at two minutes to eleven we heard afterwards and the guns sure raised hell proper the last few minutes the barrage was the heaviest at the last moment when they all suddenly ceased. I did not have a watch myself going and the watches some of the other fellows had must have been a little fast as it was past eleven already and we still heard the barrage going worse than ever so we were still a little in doubt at first but we soon met more Americans telling us the fighting had ended. It sure made us feel good. Smiles on everybody’s face, the French not the least. This made our pack feel lighter too….after dark many bonfires and lots of cheering going on. Everybody happy in spite of being tired from hiking and more hiking to come probably at anytime too. But it may be quite a while yet before the final peace agreements are settled and we may have to go to the front yet or take positions at German forts and strongholds.
● Comments: Vander Veen and his companions from the leave found their company again and set out from the main division camp. The men had heard that the armistice was supposed to signed, but were confused by the fact that the barrages continued up until the last possible minute. However, after hearing that the war was actually over, everyone was happy. Vander Veen noted that the French soldiers were especially happy, which is understandable as they had been fighting for much longer than the American soldiers and were fighting in their own country. Even though the war was over, Vander Veen was realistic with his expectations of what the next step would be, because his predictions that they would have to go to the front or take positions were very possible.

Tuesday, Nov. 12:
● “Today the official formal conditions of the armistice were received in our Co. and posted up. Our Co. has been moving around back and forth, hiking most of the time while we were on pass. Am not a bit sorry I missed it. Lt. Flynn made Capt. of our Co. Capt. Chase back too and in charge of A Co. Lt. McKinley now Capt. of B Co. Capt. George in charge of Co. D.”
● Comments: Vander Veen’s company officially received the armistice and its conditions on this day. This was Vander Veen’s last entry in his diary. Vander Veen’s account of the last months of the war are an insight into what a soldier on the front was doing, thinking, and feeling on a daily basis and provide a personal story for readers to connect with in trying to understand what World War I was like.

After the War

When the war ended, Vander Veen decided to visit his parents and siblings in the Netherlands. He had not gotten permission for a military leave, but he thought, since the war had ended, he would go regardless. He got caught at the Belgium border. This could have been a Court Marshall offense, but since the war had ended and because of his accomplishments as a messenger during his tour of duty, they let the matter pass.
He came back to the America after the war and worked as a common laborer for farmers. He would often travel across the country by train, traveling with the hobos because it didn’t cost anything. He would always search out and end up in Dutch communities. His brother Gus, a brother who had joined him prior to the war, returned to the Netherlands when the war broke out, served in the Dutch Army, married, had two small children and immigrated to the America in 1921. They settled in the small town of Thomson, Ill. along the Mississippi River near the city of Fulton, Ill. They farmed there for a number of years and they worked together.
Between the late l920s and early 1930s little is known about Vander Veen. By 1934 he was living in the Delavan, Wisconsin area where both he and Gus were living. He owned a couple of small farms in that area of Wisconsin where he raised onions and potatoes, cucumbers, and sweet corn.                                            In the 1950’s, he married for the first time in his life and sold both farms and moved to Marissa, Illinois. There his wife Elsa passed away about 1956.
He remained in Marrisa, Illinois till the late 1970s making frequent trips to the Delavan, Wisconsin area to visit relatives until passing away on May 29, 1980. He is interred in the Spring Grove Cemetery in Delavan, Wisconsin next to family.

World War I Soldier’s Journal, November 1-10, 1918

Today we read about Thomas Vander Veen’s military activities in France from November 1-10, 1918 along with Natalie Fulk’s comments.

Friday, Nov. 1:
● “Today was our third day of our vacation and a fine day it was, like the last two days, nice and sunny. We are very lucky in that as lately it had been colder and rainy and there even was a foot of snow on the highest peak around here as the “Y” men told me. Today, Koetye and I and 13 others went out with the “Y” men, in rigs, to Lake du Guéry, and we sure had a fine trip and saw some beautiful scenery. We started out shortly after 10 A.M. taking our lunch with us. We arrived at the lake at about 12:30. It was all up grade and we had to go slow. We stopped on the way to look at a waterfall. Grand scenery everywhere. The lake is about 4000 feet above sea level and is about 8 KM from Mont Dore, it is not very large, it is said to be an old time crater and the mountains ground are of volcanic formations but do not contain many minerals. We left the wagons at the hill and proceeded on foot farther beyond and did some mountain climbing up to the top of a great massive rock. Great scenery from that point although the air was a little hazy. Pretty cool way up there. The climbing tired me out a little as I am not in a condition yet to do these things much. After a little while we went back to our Rendezvous at the Lake Hotel. Had a little boatride on the lake with a couple of other fellows before leaving for home. We arrived in town again before 5 P.M. The trip cost us 4 Fr. a head, but we sure had our money’s worth.”
● Comments: Vander Veen chose to go on an excursion as part of his leave and explore the scenery around Mont Dore. Lake du Guéry, in French spelled Lac de Guéry, is still a popular hiking and fishing spot in the Auvergnes mountains. The soldiers’ leaves were meant to be like vacations and many soldiers took advantage of the time to explore parts of France that they would not have seen if not for the war.

Wednesday, Nov. 6:
● “We left Mont Dore on Wednesday morning about 7 A.M. and went some 10 miles to Laqueuille and then we were sent back again to Mont Dore for some reason or other. We don’t know what but we did not care anyway. We all were willing to go back to Mont Dore again and all cheered coming in again. But we did not remain there long though, only one day…”
● Comments: Laqueueille is a town about 10 miles from Mont Dore that is also known for tourism. Vander Veen went on day trip there and then back to Mont Dore.

Thursday, Nov. 7:
● “…we left again Thursday at 11 A.M. Niggers coming in on furlough to take our place.”
● Comments: Vander Veen left Mont Dore on this day.

Saturday, Nov. 9:
● “On the train we are on the way back from our vacation, but at the rate we are going it may take us a week yet before finding our Co. again. Since about 6 P.M. last night we have gone only about 20 K.M. We have been here stopping now for several hours. We were in Is sur Tille last night for a long time. We were served hot coffee there by the Am. Red Cross. Copped some more jam there too…. We have been going nearly 2 days now and are only about two thirds the way to Nanay, but we may not go there as we hear our division has moved again. We also hear a lot about peace but we have not been able yet to find out anything definite about the news that armistice has been signed with Germany. But from what we can get out of the papers it seems to be very near. We are all hoping it will be true. We had a fine vacation at Mont Dore and all hated to leave. I did not feel very good the first days but improved a whole lot since and except for a little cold yet am O.K. now. Have a good appetite now and I sure proved it too on the table in the hotel. We have so far good to eat here too on the train bits of good bread and I managed to get a couple of pails of good jam at Clermont and it goes good with bread. We are having fine weather, very mild for this time of the year. I had bad luck at Mont Dore as my pocket book with all the money I had, about 80 francs was stolen from me by somebody in our Co. Either Cirus or Pooks or Jim Maretti. I suspect Maretti and I think he also stole my pair of glasses and sold them. He is a regular New York crook anyway. It left me completely broke and I had to borrow 40 franc from Koetye to get around. Soldier who owes me 25 franc has gone to the hospital in Mont Dore and could not pay me as he had his money turned in. We meet American soldiers all over the country in the towns and they have it pretty soft here by what we had at the front. So far we have been going the same way back as we came up on. Some of the towns we passed through are Clermont, Cannal, Gilly, Moet Chandon, Dijon, Is sur Tille.”
● Comments: As Vander Veen and his companions left their leave, they stopped in different cities along the way as they had on the way to Mont Dore. Vander Veen’s trouble with the theft of his wallet was fairly common in the AEF, even though there were rules against it that were enforceable by the Military Police.

Sunday, Nov. 10:
● “After being on the train yet all day yesterday and all night we got off this morning at about 6 A.M. Almost 3 days and nights on the train. We did not ride much last night stood still most of time. Passed Charmont in afternoon yesterday, from there went North first and some said we were going to St. Dizier, but we branched off again at Joinville and went east and this morning when we woke up we were at Sorcy depot. We got off the train there and hiked to Siray where we had a little for breakfast, started out again but we did not go far, changed riders came in and we finally ended up in Vertusey only a couple of miles south. Got here in afternoon, billeted in farms which were pretty good outfitted for the purpose with bunks. Our Co.’s somewhere around but I don’t know just where. From what we hear our Division had been started toward the lines again about 3 or 4 days ago, but they just came back again or are on the way back, now with all the peace negotiations going on. Seems to be certain peace is very near and according to latest reports tonight the Germans have signed the terms of the armistice and down before them by Gen. Foch they had till tomorrow 11 A.M. to sign them and if they have not signed them yet I think they will sign them alright. Revolution is going on in Germany and it is not possible for them to fight successfully any longer and the German Empire is liable to be all split up. And the Kaiser and the rest of the Hohenzollern are done for too! We got only one meal today, this evening at 7, but I rounded up enough eats at the ration dumps here to give me and some of the others a good feed. We may stay here a couple of days and then I hope we can go to a good town farther to the rear. We all hope anyway peace has been declared by that time.”
● Comments: Vander Veen finally reached the place where the Fourth Division was stationed, which was in the rear. The Divisions were very big, with about 28,000 men in each. Therefore, it would have been difficult for Vander Veen to find his specific company within that many people. At this point the end of the war was very near, as all the German government had to do was sign the armistice before 11:00 AM the next day. There seemed to be many rumors going through the camp about the conditions in Germany concerning revolution. Vander Veen’s spirits seemed to be up as the war seemed to him and the rest of the men to be drawing to a close.

For earlier journal entries visit the Joint Archives of Holland.

World War I Soldier’s Journal, October 28-30, 1918

Today we read about Thomas Vander Veen’s military activities in France from October 28-30, 1918 along with Natalie Fulk’s comments.

Monday, Oct. 28:
● “We left next morning and hiked all the way to Jony, after waiting there for more than an hour we finally left on trucks. I was not feeling very good. Weak from diarrhea and a bad cold and that waiting and riding on those trucks made it still worse because it got awful foggy and misty and we had to doubletime to get to Jouey and I was wet from sweat. That waiting part in the army is always a nuisance. We passed through Foul and arrived in Nancy shortly after noon. Swell place, big YMCA there with all kinds of entertainments and lots of good things to sell. Which things that the men way back of the lines get most of the benefits of the YMCA etc. We were outfitted with new clothes for the most part and also got paid for 2 months. We had not been paid for 3 months as we still have 1 months pay coming when we go back. I drew 287 francs. We left in afternoon at about 4 on the train. Got more iron rations on the trait in addition to what we had taken along from camp. We traveled all night and the next day on the train, although the train stopped every once in a while.”
● Comments: Vander Veen was chosen to participate in a leave, which was like a vacation. Leaves were when commanders would “grant seven days of leave every four months for officers and men ‘of good standing’ in their units.” The YMCA would help organize these trips and men would be able to go on a vacation to tourist spots around France and relax for a few days in appreciation of their good service. They received other benefits besides the trip itself during their leave, such as money and clothes, as Vander Veen experienced. Leaves were supposed to help boost morale within the AEF.

Tuesday, Oct. 29:
● “We traveled all night and the next day on the train, although the train stopped every once in a while. We passed through some very nice and good farming country. It was a fine day and the country looked indeed very pretty. Everything looks more neat and clean and up to date than the villages in the northern part of France. Cattle in this part of country all white without a black spot on them. We arrived here in Mont Dore at about midnight but had to hang around for about 8 hours before we finally were checked off and had passed the medical inspection.”
● Comments: Vander Veen’s leave took place in Mont Dore in the southern part of France. Mont Dore was a resort village known for the mountain scenery and activities such as thermal springs and hiking. Now, it is still a tourist destination, especially for winter sports like skiing.

Wednesday, Oct. 30:
● “This is quite a change here by what we have been used to for the last months. Instead of marching every day or laying in holes to duck shells. I am here now in a famous resort living the life of a gentleman at leisure. The change came very sudden and unexpected…. Most of us in C men were assigned to Hotel Bardel and we were marched to the place and assigned to our rooms there. Swell place, dandy rooms. Occupy a room with Cirus the cook. Feather beds and unknown led in after we had breakfast at almost 11 this morning. But I did not sleep very good, am still feeling punk today, got an awful cold and headache and I haven’t got much pep left as me. But I guess I will straighten out soon after being here for a couple of days. Swell place this town is, although not very big and busy. It is one of many towns here in this Auvergne resort district. We have lodging and board and transportation on trains free. The YMCA has a swell big building with casino where all kinds of entertainments are given free also and we can buy candy and drink etc. there at small cost.”
● Comments: This was Vander Veen’s first day getting to explore Mont Dore and what it had to offer, even though he was feeling sick still. Soldiers from all over France had come to Mont Dore on leave.

For earlier journal entries visit the Joint Archives of Holland.