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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

Our tanks had trouble getting over the hedge rows. They would hit it and rear up over the hump, which exposed the belly of the tank. The Germans would lob a shell under it and it was out of commission.

Finally an old farmer boy figured out a way. They welded a frame like mower teeth on the front and then the tank could cut through and bulldoze the bank down. And finally after weeks of fighting the Germans were routed out - only to stop at another difficult place.

As I write this I can only tell the highlights of what happened because so much went on each day and night. It has been 55 years since I was there. Some of it is clear and other things are a haze.

The Germans stopped us at St. Lô, or St. Lo. It took 11 days of hard fighting with a tremendous loss of life before the battle was won. Gordon Hunt a cousin of mine was killed there with the 29th Division. Also the 28th Division was there too.

During the battle of St. Lô we were at a place where there were dead laying around and among them a woman with a beautiful ring on her finger. One of the guys stooped down and took the ring from her finger. He probably sent it home to his girl friend. I couldn't do that.

We moved up to the front and drove through the dead. Dead men in ditches, fields, and partially out of fox holes. Mixed in with them were dead cattle and horses. The civilians moved back or out to another town.

We dug in. The fox holes were long enough to contain your body and about 3' deep and it took a direct hit to get you, unless you stuck your head out at the wrong time. Sometimes we dug them for 2 guys for warmth.

I never heard of a homosexual over there and didn't know what they were. There was a strange guy now and then, but they had a different name for them.

There was a house where we stopped and the Germans had killed a cow and had been eating a quarter hanging in the shed. We didn't have much to eat, only K rations, which were crackers that when you bit into flew into a thousand pieces. Also, there was a D bar, which was as hard as iron. The Jerry's and civilians loved them. You could get almost anything for a chocolate bar. I didn't sleep in the house that night. I moved away from the dead. They shelled us and bombed us that night coming in and out.

There were so many wounded that we couldn't keep up. The field hospital was full. The doctors and nurses did a whale of a job, but they tried to do to much. The nurses were back behind the front and they did a beautiful job. The 28th Division was so shot up and they had lost so many men that they had to pull them out and put in another division. We had ambulances with wounded backed up 10 - 12 of us. One captain I had was dying. So I went in and told the Doc, "You have to take care of him soon or he is going to die." I got him out. Good luck.

It's not easy to see a man die. His breathing gets shorter, shallower and farther between breaths - and then he's gone. You've done all you can. Some curse. Some pray. Most lay quiet. A gut shot is the worst. Every jolt hurts them.

Then there was the mud. The road gave out from the heavy equipment. Tanks mostly. I had to use 4 wheel drive and just crawl. They built a corduroy road and it was one bump after another. It was a problem to find where I was to go at times. No maps or nothing. We would move up during the night. Where were we? Where do I take those guys? I've had soldiers say, "Man, how did you ever make it?" I could see then a lot better than I can today. If I could stay in between the flanks I knew I was O.K.

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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.