This is one of those men that makes me proud to be Dutch, and like me he has also a connection with Ireland.
He was born in Hattem, a small town in the east of the Netherlands. His father was an officer in the Dutch Navy.
Willem studied mathematics at Trinity College, Dublin, where he earned a gold medal.
He continued his studies in Edinburgh and Toronto where he received an M.A. from the University of Toronto and his Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh. His main academic achievement was to solve Einstein’s field equations for an infinite rotating cylinder. His work is regularly cited by those interested in time travel.
Van Stockum moved to the USA in hope of becoming an understudy to Albert Einstein.
Eventually in the spring of 1939 he gained a temporary position under Professor Oswald Veblen at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
The outbreak of World War II happened while he was teaching at the University of Maryland. Eager to join the fight against Hitler and Fascism, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941, where he eventually earned his pilots wings in July 1942.
Because of his advanced knowledge of physics, he spent much of the next year as a test pilot in Canada. After the Netherlands was invaded by the Nazis, van Stockum sought to join the war as a pilot.
He moved to Britain in the spring of 1943 and and in 1944 became the only Dutch officer posted to the no. 10 squadron at RAF Melbourne in Yorkshire.
On 10 June 1944, van Stockum and his crew of six took off on their sixth combat mission, as part of another 400-plane raid. Near their target, the plane was hit by flak, and all seven crew members were lost, along with seven from another bomber on the same mission. The fourteen airmen are buried in Laval, near the place where the planes went down.
Ending the blog with the last line he wrote in an article about his decision of becoming a fighter pilot.
“For goodness’ sake let us stop this empty political theorizing according to which a man would have to have a University degree in social science before he could see what he was fighting for. It is all so simple, really, that a child can understand it.”
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