Teen Helped in Belgian Resistance

Soldiers were not the only ones who encountered the war in Europe.

Fort Wayne resident Gabriel Delobbe remembers the day his home country of Belgium was invaded by the German Army on May 10, 1940. “I was 14 years old,” he said. “The Belgian Army was small so all we could do was watch the German army move in very fast.”

I interviewed Delobbe for my book, ‘It Was Our War Too: Youth in the Shadows of World War II.’

His story was a fascinating look through the eyes of a young teen about what the war happening right before him.

As you’ll see from the excerpt below, he was forced to help the Germans before making a choice to help defend his country.

What might you have done if the war came to you?


(Excerpt from It Was Our War Too: Youth in the Shadows of World War II’)

At first, Germany’s occupation of Belgium didn’t adversely affect the country’s citizens.

But by July 1940, food, shoes, and stamps were rationed as the German Army confiscated supplies. “The hardest item to give up was tires,” said Delobbe. “Without tires we could not go places, but there was no gas so it didn’t matter.”

By 1942 German troops had taken over Belgium’s radios, newspapers, and factories. “It was illegal to listen to news through the radio on BBC (British Broadcasting System),” he said. “People caught listening were killed.”

Delobbe was given the choice of being sent to Germany to work in a factory or working in a coal mine in Belgium. He chose the coal mine.

When news of the D-Day invasion on the beaches of Normandy  reached him in June 1944, Delobbe joined the Underground, a resistance movement of French and Belgian citizens formed to fight the Germans.

For two weeks he and other young men from Belgium trained at a Catholic school in France. “We learned English phrases and how to fire weapons and use grenades,” he said.

Soldiers trek through a bomb-destroyed area, looking for survivors.

Later, Delobbe lived in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium. Working with others in the Underground, he helped sabotage trains going from Germany to France through Belgium. “We unscrewed train rails and split them open so trains went off the tracks.”

In December Delobbe participated in the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes Forest. “It was cold and the snow was up to our knees,” he said.

He helped shoot down a German single-engine fighter plane using small arms (the pilot escaped) and was involved with the battle at Remagen Bridge. He was wounded three times while fighting, though his injuries were not serious.

In December 1945 Delobbe was discharged from the American military. By then, the Belgian government had organized its own army and Delobbe enlisted. He was assigned guard duty of German soldiers.

Sergeant Delobbe was discharged in August 1946.

During the next few years, Delobbe married. In 1952, he and his wife, Colette, sailed to America where they settled in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Delobbes became parents to two daughters. In 1957 the Delobbes became American citizens.

Gabriel Delobbe developed a career as a photographer, a skill he had learned from his father.

For his help in World War II Gabriel Delobbe was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross and silver and bronze medals for his volunteer work with the Allies in World War II.

“I was thankful to have contributed to the effort of the Allies in the war,” he said.

The End

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