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Huddled Masses

Odinson

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The tribulations in France were still festering, except in Paris where it seemed that the government had regained some kind of semblance of control over the people. Still, that was not stopping tens-of-thousands of Americans, of the over 150,000 that were there, from trying to flee that country that was mostly in some form of anarchy. Americans were fleeing to the Untied Kingdom, Sweden, Spain, and anywhere else their passport would get them. A countless number crossed the border into Belgium, but they met a government both unable to render much aid and not willing to help repatriate them back to the United States. When subtle threats of arrest came for crossing the border into Belgium, waves of Americans had no choice but to start heading north to the Kingdom of The Netherlands. After the State Department recommended that Americans go to Britain, Sweden, or The Netherlands, those who found themselves in Belgium felt that going north was the most logical choice.


PROVINCE OF NOORD-BRABANT
Dutch-Belgian Border
February 5, 2001
8:14 AM CET​




Close to a thousand Americans had trickled into The Netherlands by air, sea, and few by land over the past two weeks. Now on near-freezing Monday morning in February, that would change. A combination of failures by the Belgian government and desperation of the Americans fleeing France led to a situation where thousands of Americans were forced to leave Antwerp either because they could not get help or because they felt political pressure to do so. The overwhelming majority of the refugees were corralled by Belgian police and civil authorities to cross the border into The Netherlands ( 51.377183, 4.312068 ). They would continue north to the Dutch city of Aanwas. Most of the Americans just had their clothes, or perhaps a small bag of belongings/valuables with them as they crossed the border. Thousands were any combination of exhausted, hungry, injured, sleep-deprived, and ill. Some of them had blankets around them while others appeared to be wearing the same clothes they had been wearing on a warmer day in Paris or Lille. Many of them had their passports and travel papers with them while some had nothing but their accents. To make it worse, The Netherlands and Belgium were experiencing some of their coldest weather of the year. Temperatures had dropped to 1 degree Celsius (33 degrees Fahrenheit) and snow/sleet was in the forecast for the next five days.

The United States Federal Government and Embassy in The Netherlands would not be aware of this mass of refugees moving into The Netherlands and would, effectively, find out about it shortly after Dutch authorities would. At the first site of Dutch authorities, Americans in the front of the procession would beg to not be turned around. At this time, neither the United States nor The Netherlands would have any accurate estimation of the number of people crossing the border - the roughest of estimates said that it was over two-thousand people - but this was just hearsay and guesswork. Throughout all of Monday Americans would continue to cross the border and head to Aanwas, where they were told they would be able to get more help.


Private​

As this information broke on the news, the U.S. Ambassador to The Netherlands, John F. Kennedy Jr., called the Deputy Secretary of State in Washington and informed him of the developing situation. He didn't have solid numbers, but he said they would be in the thousands. The American Embassy in The Hague was already full of Americans trying to get home, with more waiting outside. Ambassador Kennedy wrote an urgent message to the Prime Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.​








OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR
TO THE KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS




ENCRYPTED MESSAGE

TO: Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Minister-President of The Kingdom of The Netherlands ( Dutchy )
FROM: John F. Kennedy Jr., United States Ambassador to the Kingdom of The Netherlands

Minister-President,

As I am sure you are now aware, there is a large number of American citizens who are crossing the Belgian-Dutch border, on foot, and appear to be walking north. This comes as a surprise to my government as I am sure that it does to yours as well. Know that I am communicating this information to Washington and that the United States will, without question, do whatever is necessary to assist your government with these affected people. We will take all measures to repatriate them and bring them home as soon as possible. I have been told that Americans have found difficulty in receiving assistance in Belgium. I have been in communication with the State Department in Washington for the past half-hour to see what resources we can gather to help process these Americans and return them home. I am at your disposal to answer any questions you may have, by email or phone, or to relay any information to Washington.

I understand that you may be put under political pressure to restrict access of Americans to The Netherlands. I urge you to not do this, and to not close the border with Belgium.

Respectfully,

John F. Kennedy Jr.
United States Ambassador to The Kingdom of The Netherlandds

 

Dutchy

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As hundreds and then thousands of American citizens started to make their way towards the Dutch border crossing near Aanwas the Marechaussee detachment dealing with border control would quickly be overwhelmed by the sheer number of people they were having to process, with the procedure would be made even more difficult by those lacking any sort of documentation. Situation reports would rapidly make their way up the chain of command until it would reach the office of the prime minister himself.

On the ground, the local police would be called in to help with crowd control as the Marechausee did their best to maintains some sense of calmness. The Dutch Red Cross would also be called in to provide humanitarian assistance in the form of blankets, water and food to those waiting in line for processing.

Any American with valid documentation would be granted an emergency short-stay visa with which they could remain in country for 90-days, which should offer them plenty of time to travel north to Schiphol in order to catch a flight back to the United States. Any person who at this time did not carry any valid documentation they would be escorted to one of a number of touring busses which had been comandeered by the government which would take them to the Mobilisation Complex Rupchen where they would be detained until their identity could be validated.






Ministry of General Affairs
Kingdom of the Netherlands


Recipient: United States Ambassador to The Kingdom of The Netherlands (Odinson)
Cc: -
Subject: Border Crisis
Attachment:
Classification:
CONFIDENTIAL

Dear Ambassador Kennedy,

The Netherlands would never abandon our friends in a time of need. I have been informed of the situation on our Southern border and the approrpiate authorities are directing resources to contain the situation. At this time any American citizen with valid documentation will receive an emergency 90-day visa which I hope is enough time for the US government to arrange for repatriation. Any individual who at this time is unable to show valid identification but still wishes to enter the Netherlands is being held in detainment at the nearest approrpiate facility where a large number of people can be housed, in this case Mobilisation Complex Rupchen. I would request that the appropriate consular staff make their way to this facility to assist with the identification of American citizens.

Please keep me informed of any relevant information you may come across as we work together to tackle this crisis.

Yours Sincerely,

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
Prime Minister
 

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PROVINCE OF NOORD-BRABANT
Dutch-Belgian Border
February 5, 2001
10:01 AM CET





It would soon be clear to Dutch authorities that this was not a small battalion of people that were trying to cross the border. By ten in the morning, not even two hours since the first refugees had crossed the border, then number of refugees had more than doubled. The estimation is that about twenty more people were crossing every minute. As the Marechaussee and the Dutch police tried to slow down the crowd, the number of people would continue to increase, and some people would attempt to go around the police and continue north. The number of people that had crossed into The Netherlands was over four-thousand, and more people were still crossing the border every minute.

Of the thousands now in Brabant, about half were soaking wet from wading through canals to the south. Hundreds were in the beginning stages of hypothermia - this included children, adults, and the elderly. Dozens of people had serious injuries like broken bones or concussions while hundreds of people had more minor injuries like twisted ankles or open wounds. Virtually everyone was hungry, cold, and exhausted. The sheer lack of personnel to deal with the situation, especially in the beginning, would cause problems. Some people would continue on north as the Marechaussee tried to stop them. The arrival of additional police would make it easier to contain more of the people, temporarily. However, a group of thousands of people who had just walked 100 kilometers would not be very patient.

Americans with passports were relieved to hear that they would be granted emergency visas. It quickly became clear to people in the crowd, however, that they were being segregated into two groups: those who had papers, and those who did not. Those who had papers were being kept in place, while those who didn't were being taken away in busses. This became especially problematic as friend groups, and especially families, comprised of some people who had passports and others who didn't. Very quickly, rumors started to spread that the police were arresting/detaining those without passports and sending them back to Belgium, or worse, France. Parts of the crowd would begin to panic as more and more people tried slipping past the police and going any direction but south. Families, especially parents, would quickly become belligerent and even violent if attempts were made to separate them and their children. When individuals were told that they would need to be detained because they did not have a passport, a minority would refuse to board the buses willingly and demand to be taken to the American Embassy, and some of those people would make an unproductive spectacle out of it.

At some point it would hopefully become clear to the police that they were having a breakdown of communication with the crowd. The number of people constantly flooding in, the lack of mass-communication, and the semi-organized segregation of people were all making the situation more tense. It would be abundantly clear that the status quo was not sustainable, and that the situation was getting worse. The arrival of the local Dutch Red Cross chapter with aid would be helpful, but they would certainly need more assistance. By 10:30, another 600 people had crossed the border. Around that same time, the Dutch news media would begin arriving, in person, on the scene with the international press probably twenty minutes behind them.


Private​

Ambassador Kennedy informed the State Department in Washington that the Embassy in The Hague would need an increase in temporary staff to process the flood of people at the American Embassy. Also, he requested bureaucrats from the Social Security Service who could help verify identities and citizenship status, even if they didn't have their passport, travel documents, identification, or social security number. At some point Ambassador Kennedy became frustrated with the lack of information he was getting back and asked if the White House had been made aware of the situation yet.

It was four in the morning on the East Coast of the United States. President Gore was in Maryland at Camp David with his family. He was out on a short walk through forest - a hike he was coming to regret as the temperature had dipped below freezing an hour ago and it was starting to snow. Nevertheless, he felt so alive to be in nature and amongst the trees. Sometimes when he was at the White House in Washington he felt like he was in a prison, a very well-decorated and historic prison. Like Alcatraz, but with a lot more butlers and national security advisors roaming around. The Secret Service always followed him, but at Camp David and at times like this they kept their distance to give him the allusion that he was alone. Gore nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard a branch break directly behind him, it was a member of his senior staff.

The young man was in his late thirties and was wearing clothes that weren't appropriate for hiking. His leather shoes were scuffed up and his normally combed hair was messed up by the elements and the wind.

"Jesus Marty, I need to put a bell on you," Gore said as he regained his composure. "Decided to go on a walk?"
"No sir," Marty said as he caught his breath. "We've been trying to find you for the past twenty minutes. There's a situation in The Netherlands, it has to do with the situation in France, I think you should come back to the cabin so we can brief you. Ambassador Kennedy wants to speak with you," he said.

The President went back with Marty to one of the cabins where some other members of his senior staff had gathered. He spoke on the phone with Ambassador Kennedy who described every bit of information he knew regarding the situation, and that he thought it was going to get worse as the day went on. President Gore approved of Kennedy's idea to round up workers from Social Security to help verify identities. The State Department immediately requested emergency visas for around 200 American government workers in social security and others in the Foreign Service who would be able to help at the embassy in The Hague. The President was given a number of options of how the United States could possibly help. He would start making some larger decisions around 10:45. A secure message was sent to the Pentagon because the President wanted to know if the task force that had been sent to the coast of France could be moved off the coast of The Netherlands.

Dutchy
 
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Dutchy

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As it became clear that the number of people arriving at the border kept growing, requests for reinforcements would be sent up the chain of command. Within the next few hours, over fifty officers from the Rotterdam detachments of the Marechaussee would join the 150 officers already processing incoming Americans. A distribution of tasks was set up, with the Marechaussee focusing on document verification and the National Police tasked with crowd control. From the entire province and neighbouring regions, over 200 police officers would already be present at this time to attempt to keep the situation calm. Further North, preparations were being made for the deployment of Mobiele Eenheid (riot control) units, with two units of 45 officers each gearing up.

In order to improve the process, multiple Tijdelijke Mobiele Signalering (TMS) units would be placed between the border and the ad hoc checkpoints with information regarding queues, those with valid identification being sent to the Marechaussee and those without being sent the buses. Further TMS units would offer information regarding where first aid posts or volunteer charity organisations were located where people could pick up water, food, and blankets.

As some of those in the crowd became rowdy as a result of misinformation, the decision was made to deploy one of the ME units to handle the embarkation of those who did not have valid identification onto the buses. However, a request was also made to the American embassy if it would be possible to have American consular staff and American uniformed military personnel present at the scene to translate and convey messages to the crowd.

Military and reservist units in the area would also be placed on standby for possible deployments.

Odinson
 

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U.S. EMBASSY
The Hague, Netherlands
February 5, 2001
10:22 AM CET


Private



After receiving a request from the Dutch government for American personnel to be on the ground, Ambassador Kennedy sent a secure message to the White House and started to get ready. His motorcade was extended to several other vehicles so that consular staff, a few Diplomatic Security Service Agents, and 22 U.S. Marines, who were normally embassy sentinels, could come with the Ambassador to the site of the crossing. The Embassy had little to offer in the way of humanitarian aid, but as much water, medical supplies, and non-perishable food that could be found was gathered into another vehicle. Megaphones, flares, spare blankets, flashlights, and other essential supplies were brought as well. At 10:22 AM the motorcade left the U.S. Embassy and began the one hour, twenty-minute drive to the Dutch-Belgian border. The Dutch government would be securely informed that the Ambassador, Marines, and consular staff were heading to the border by car and would be there in roughly 70 minutes.​



**************************************************

CAMP DAVID
Frederick County, Maryland
February 5, 2001
10:55 AM (Netherlands), 4:55 AM (United States)


Private



President Gore, his senior staff, and a few members of the National Security Council were huddled in the warm, main cabin at Camp David where they sat in the cousin of the White House's Situation Room. There were a few television monitors that had on Dutch news, and one television that now had CNN starting to cover the story as well. President Gore had spoken to Ambassador Kennedy who told him that the situation was getting worse and that the Dutch had requested an American presence on the ground.​

"Mister President, we're sending our entire Marine garrison at the Embassy - and I'm going too," Kennedy told the President. After a short back and forth, Gore agreed that it was a good idea and that he would consider sending additional aid.​

The President placed a direct call to Rear Admiral Thibodaux, the commanding officer of the Navy deployment off the coast of France that included ten warships and four supply ships. Thibodaux took the call and informed the President that the task force could relocate anywhere in the world, if need be, and that sailing to the coast of The Netherlands would be no problem. Gore ordered him to begin preparations to cross the English Channel while the President sent official orders through the Pentagon. After consulting with his advisors at Camp David, Gore placed a secure call to the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon and, through the proper military channels, ordered Task Force Blue and Task Force Gold to relocate to the southern coast of The Netherlands and begin preparations to airlift Americans out of the country. The USS Tarawap and the USS Saipan could each take on 1,703 refugees.​

The President's staff then organized a secure call between the President and the Dutch Prime Minister.​


**************************************************

PROVINCE OF NOORD-BRABANT
Dutch-Belgian Border
February 5, 2001
11:45 AM CET



Ambassador Kennedy's motorcade would get as close to the area as possible. Once this became impossible, the Ambassador, the uniformed Marines, and consular staff would start walking on foot to where the civilians were amassing together. The Ambassador, who was dressed in winter work clothes instead of a suit and tie, would find the closest Dutch authority and inform him that the small American detachment had arrived. They would coordinate with the Dutch to get a better handle on the situation. The Marines would work with the Dutch police and officials to get the crowd under control. They used megaphones to guide the crowd into specific areas so that there wouldn't be any risk of trampling or injury. To raise morale, the Marines started distributing blankets and the small amount of food (mostly MREs) that they had brought from the embassy. The site of U.S. Marines on the ground would boost the morale and order of the crowd.

Ambassador Kennedy and consular staff helped hand out aid until they ran out. Then, they started processing helping Americans with passports or partial documentation. The State Department had the power to issue a purple "Emergency Passport" to an American citizen. This was normally done when someone lost their passport in a foreign country, or if their passport expired, or if it was full. The only issue is that the equipment to do so was at the Embassy in The Hague. Consular staff began taking down the personal information of Americans with documentation other than a passport, such as a valid state driver's license or a social security card, as well as those with expired or damaged passports. The remaining staff at the embassy started printing valid emergency passports for those individuals that they could positively identify as Americans. The Embassy would be in constant secure communication with the Social Security Administration back in the United States to help verify the identity of the refugees. The emergency passports would be brought by car by a consular staff member to the area, as there was no better option.

While the organization of the site was slowly increasing, so was the number of people crossing the border. More accurate estimates were coming in that the total number of people in the caravan was somewhere between 10,000 and 11,000 people. Ambassador Kennedy assessed the situation and quickly noted the number of people who were starting to freeze to death, partly due to their lack of winter clothes, and also because so many had crossed through one or more canals to get into The Netherlands. Kennedy asked five of the Marines to find a way to get to the border and light flares along the bridge so that it would be clearly visible, and it would hopefully stop people from crossing through the canal to get into The Netherlands. The Marines, led by Lieutenant Oscar White, took with them flares and a megaphone. They would find the Dutch Marechaussee and tell them of their plan. They had no choice but to walk on foot. The Marines asked for the Marechaussee to accompany them so that they didn't accidentally cross the border and invade Belgium.

The U.S. Embassy staff and remaining Marines provided medical aid and helped with the organization of people and with the distribution of food and warm clothes along with the Dutch Red Cross. The Marines on the megaphones assured everyone there that they would not be deported, and that anyone without proper documentation would be taken to a facility with heating, food, and places to sit down while they were processed by American and Dutch authorities. This also helped calm the crowd. The crossing of thousands more people, however, continued to make the situation worse.

At some point Ambassador Kennedy would approach the highest-ranking Dutch official on-site and asked if the Dutch Army was coming.
 
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Dutchy

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The word would quickly go around on the radio about tha arrival of the American ambassador and his consular entourage. The Marechaussee would escort them to the border and help them set up their emergency consular station in order to allow for the processing of identities prior to Americans reaching the border checkpoints.

Word would also reach to commanding officer regarding the deployment of American helicopters to Woensdrecht Air Base where Americans would be evacuated from. Anybody without valid documentation would now be directed to the American consular staff, with the busses previously used to transport those without valid documentation to the ad-hoc detention facility now transporting those in most desparate need of evacuation to Woensdrecht Air Base.

Two members of the Marechausee would escort Lieutenant White as he went to guide the Americans to the proper border crossings. In response to Ambassador Kennedy's query, the commanding Marechaussee officer would respond that the closest military units were located in the East of the country and that it would take at least two hours before the first logistics units would begin to arrive on the scene.

DutchMil, the air traffic control authority, would reach out to the American task force of the coast authorising the take off of American helicopters and would guide them in to Woensdrecht Air Base through a ad-hoc air bridge. A NOTAM (Notice to all Airmen) would be issued ensuring that all general aviation traffic was to avoid the area for the next 24 hours. At Woensdrecht Air Base, the skeleton crew manning the air base would prepare for the arrival of thousands of Americans. They quickly set up various zones where the helicopters could land while the waiting crowds were kept at a safe distance. In addition, certain buildings were quickly designated as aid stations where the most vulnerable could wait safe from the harsh weather.

Odinson
 

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PROVINCE OF NOORD-BRABANT
Dutch-Belgian Border
February 5, 2001
3:00 PM CET​


The consular staff slowly started processing Americans that they could identify and began issuing them purple Emergency Passports. This process, though, was not a quick one since the passports had to be transported from The Hague. Ambassador Kennedy was on the ground with the Marines and other volunteers. Now that he had a command center set up with communications and was able to process at least some Americans, he was directly assisting with helping the elderly and children get to some makeshift shelters that had been built. From this point of the day on, it would only get colder, and he knew that. It would only be a matter of time before people would start dying, so it was important that the elderly were seen to. The media was mostly staying out of the way, but some photojournalists were able to snap pictures of Ambassador Kennedy carrying an old man, or a little girl, or handing out food.

The Americans on-site would be more relieved once the busses began bringing people to Woensdrecht Air Base. This not only meant it would be a shorter journey and that they could bring more people, but it also meant that maybe they could start decreasing the number of people on site. So far, for the entire time they had been there, they had only seen the number of people increase. The Americans would work hand-in-hand with the Dutch to assure that as many people as possible could be processed as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, Ospreys from the USS Saipan began flying to Woensdrecht Air Base. They were ferrying in 100 uniformed Marines. Soon, the Ospreys would take Americans from the air base to the task force where they could be taken care of in a more controlled environment. Throughout this entire process, the Dutch government would be kept in-the-know so that there was full transparency of the American operation while in Dutch sovereign airspace, and on Dutch soil. The Marines at Woensdrecht helped the Dutch prepare the base for a massive influx of people, and they also unloaded medical equipment and aid from the Ospreys.

Over several hours busloads of people - hundreds and then eventually thousands - were arriving at Woensdrecht. At that point, a second command post by the U.S. Embassy was set up to process more people and ensure that they were American citizens. The Ospreys began flying in to the airbase to start evacuating them to the USS Saipan which was somewhere off the Dutch coast.


**************************************************

THE WHITE HOUSE
District of Columbia
February 5, 2001
9:00 AM EST
Private





After a phone call and further discussion with the National Security Council, the President decided to return to the White House in order to prepare to leave for The Netherlands. Vice President Sinclair was informed of the situation and that the President was going to try to make a trip to The Netherlands. At the same time, word was also given to Ambassador Kennedy in The Netherlands that reinforcements from the United States would be dispatched, and that President Gore would try to come to The Netherlands as well.

The higher-ups in the Secret Service were strongly against the President traveling to The Netherlands, especially with decreased security. President Gore and Secret Service leadership had a back and forth for a half hour before Gore threatened to refuse Secret Service protection, something he had not done in his entire presidency thus far. Both parties took a ten minute break. When they returned to the Oval Office, the Secret Service agreed to Gore's trip to The Netherlands, but certain unorthodox measures would have to be taken. First, the press could not be informed that the President was leaving the country. Secondly, special forces would need to be relocated to The Netherlands to serve as a rescue team, should they be needed. Thirdly, the Secret Service insisted that Gore wear a bulletproof vest while he was on the ground. There was some back and forth about this, until the Secret Service informed Gore that there was one he could wear under a dress shirt and wouldn't be noticeable. And finally fourthly, the Secret Service would have a strong presence on the ground before, during, and right after the President was in the area. Gore agreed to this, but he insisted that emergency workers on-site would not be taken away from their duties to ensure his protection. The Secret Service agreed.

The President informed the Vice President and the Secretary of State that he would be heading to The Netherlands the following day, so that it would be light out when he arrived to The Netherlands. A secure informal message was sent to the Dutch Prime Minister's office informing him of this, with an attachment stating that an official message would come from the Executive Office of the President soon.


Dutchy
 
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