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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

It was time to go. They let down the landing gate. My assistant crawled in the driver's window. I crawled in afterward and sealed the window with gook and drove off into the water. Down we went - completely under water for about 75 yards. Old Arkansas the cook, who was with me said, "Keep her going Nick. Keep 'er going." It never missed a lick. I had it in four wheel drive and finally came out of the water and onto the beach. We drove up the hill to an apple orchard and then got out and scraped all of the gook off the plugs, battery, doors, and windows and took the long tail pipe off and threw it away. Some ambulances caught fire on a battery short, but we didn't have any problems.

I looked around and what I saw gave me a chill. Helmets with holes in them, sergeant stripes, other clothing, and the waste of war. Soldiers had ripped their stripes off because the Germans shot at them first.

We stayed where we were that night about 300 yards from the beach. What a night. They shelled us, bombed us, and the ambulance shook. There were 2 seats that folded down in the ambulance - one short and one long. Henry King slept on the long one and snored all night. He never heard a thing. I slept on the short one and don't believe I slept a wink. I was too scared to crawl out under the ambulance. I just couldn't move.

The next day we moved out. The first human being I saw - other than soldiers - was a young woman at a house very, very pregnant. Probably by the Germans. We moved up to the front at St. Mère Eglise. The 29th and 4th Divisions were there. We were in the 1st Army under Omar Bradley and Courtney Hodges all through the war.

We started to pick up the wounded and haul them back. A 200 pound man is hard to lift on a litter. You put one end in and my assistant gets in, then the guy in back has to lift up the loaded litter, turn your hands, and lift above your head, then hook the straps that hold the litter. You could have 4 litters, or 2 litters and 5 walking wounded, or no litters and 10 walking wounded. Our work had begun.

Most of the time it was night driving with no lights. We had 2 triangle lights on each head light on each side of the vehicle. That was just for the guy coming at you - not for me to see with. We didn't get much sleep. It seemed like we were going night and day.

About the second night they settled us down in a field and then the captain came and whispered, "Move out." So we slipped out quietly.

We would pick up a load of wounded and head back and didn't know how to get where we were going. We just found the tent some way. Darker than pitch. You could look up and see a little light above us between the branches of the trees overhanging the road and know you are on the road.

The 1st Army spearheaded a lot so when we came back to our station which was only a tent we could see the gun flashes, hear the shells, and know we were about there.

There were artillery flashes on both sides of me, which were the flanks. We would get back and another load was ready. So it went day and night.

At the beach there were lots of fortifications like pill boxes. They were about 4 feet thick and slanted in from the front to deflect incoming fire. About the only way they could get the Jerry's out was sneak up on it or rush it and throw a hand grenade in it, which was effective. If it was hit by a bomb on a direct hit it blew some of it apart.

One bomber mission the planes misjudged the target and killed quite a few of our own men.

The hedge rows of Normandy was a hard fight. They were laid out into a field about 2 to 5 acres or so. And they were thick. There was a ditch and then a hump of dirt that the hedges grew on. The Germans used these to fight behind. So they fought back and forth. Mortars, German 88's, a small artillery which was easily maneuvered and was deadly.

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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.