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An Ambulance Driver's
Experiences in World War II

From Omaha Beach to the Malmédy Massacre


Howard E. Nixon

6 April 1923 - 29 December 2001

When we got to England the fog came in at night and was so thick you could only see about 50 feet. You could hear a car coming but didn't see it till it was there. They also drove on the left side of the road and it took a little getting used to. We went to a few dances while we were there too.

The Jerry [German] bombers came over every night and bombed. The window rattled and the ground shook. They tried to shoot them down from the search lights. Somehow they seemed to be able to dodge in and out of the search lights. They had air raid shelters and at times we ran for them. All sorts of people in there - soldiers and old women. Some were knitting, reading, and some were pacing back and forth wringing their hands. Some just sat there quietly, others smoked a blue streak. Lots of smoking. Finally the all clear sounded.

They had everything closed up at night so no light could show anywhere. And when the fog came in also it was worse. One guy walked through a big bay window. There was lots of pubs (beer taverns). This was the first part of June, 1944.

One day some girls came and set some tents up and I wondered what they were for. I soon found out. Soon there was men lined up and the line was getting longer. Well, the colonel came by and it didn't take him long to figure out what was going on. That was all for that.

Finally they sent us outside of the town close to the English Channel and we were there a few days. We picked our ambulances up brand new. Mine had 5 miles on it. We water proofed them with a gun full of waterproofing gook around the spark plugs, battery, distributor cap, and there we left one little hole. We sealed the doors and windows all but the window on the driver's side. And then we put a flexible pipe over the tail pipe so it stuck up about 5 feet above the roof. And I said, "What in the world is this?" I found out.

We had gas masks and had been trained to use them. Also there was gas repellent clothing - even socks. We had all that on before we left and then they said, "Take it off. You won't need it." They said Roosevelt told Hitler that if he used gas we would drown him in it. That was a relief.

 Howard and Joe Robinson
Joe Robinson and me
with his ambulance - No. 17

Although one night in France we were parked and the gas alarm sounded. On went the masks, but it turned out that it was fresh mown hay, which smells like a certain type of gas. False alarm.

We sat there in the woods a couple of days waiting.

It seemed like everyone had a buddy. Joe Robinson from Indiana and I were close buddies. He was a big guy and me smaller, yet we had much in common - from farm backgrounds, brought up Christian.

On the morning of June 6, 1944 I woke up early to an awful roar. I looked and saw the sky full of planes - thousands of them heading for France. It was just a steady stream. It wasn't long and we could hear booms over 20 miles away across the channel. The invasion had begun.

We were an ambulance outfit so there was nothing we could do so quick until they go inland a few miles.

The 82nd airborne and 101st airborne dropped behind the German lines. It worked to some extent, but not 100%. The Germans had 2 big guns. One on each side of Omaha Beach. They had to be silenced and eventually they were. The beach had to be cleared of mines. So many soldiers got slowed up. There were cliffs on one side of the beach and they had to get to the top of them. They used grappling hooks thrown up 75 to 100 feet and scaled the walls. They got up there and drove the Germans back, but ran out of ammunition. They then used captured German guns. Our soldiers heard the sound of German 88's and fired on one and killed some of our own men. Also, some of our planes missed the target and killed several of our boys.

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© Copyright, Howard E. Nixon, 2001.

Address comments to:
Howard's son Pat Nixon or his daughter Cindy Guernsey at the following email addresss:
nixon748@cox.net nixon748@cox.net or cindyguernsey@chartermi.net cindyguernsey@chartermi.net.