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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

They also had a buzz bomb. It looked like a tobacco can with short wings. You didn't know where it was going to run out of fuel. When that happened it dropped and exploded. We also had to watch for German planes coming over at low altitudes, which we called "hedge hopping." They would skim over the tree tops and strafe with machine guns. You hit the dirt behind an object if you could.

They weren't supposed to shoot medics. Most of the time they didn't. But sometimes they did. One almost got me. I was driving down a street and I heard a noise and looked in my mirror. I saw a plane swooping down on me - spraying bullets. I turned to the right into an alley real quick like and he missed me. I about took the corner of the building off, but I made it.

Another town hard hit with rockets and bombs was Leiage. I didn't waste no time getting there. Harold Strom, another neighbor from back home, seen me go by and tried to catch me to no avail. He was driving a 2 1/2 ton truck.

After the break-through of Normandy and St. Lô the Germans packed up to Averanches and Argentain [Argentan?]. Our planes and bombs hammered them night and day. General Patton was in on the deal and our armies captured the whole Seventh German Army at the Falaise Pocket, which was a blow to the Germans.

We didn't know what was going on - only in our outfit and not much of that. We moved quite fast on the way to Paris. In fact I lost my outfit for 2 or 3 days. I got hungry and traded chocolate bars and cigarettes to the French for eggs and potatoes. I had a frying pan. So, I dug a hole and dumped gasoline in the hole. Then I had a fire and cooked my meal.

Some of the C rations were OK. There was Spam and cheese in cans with a twist off key. The G.I.s threw those cans away. Unfortunately they stuck in my tires at times and I had to dig them out. At times I stopped at other units for a meal. They didn't know who I was - only that I was a medic, so they paid no attention to me. I saw very little of my headquarters for days. I finally caught up with my unit. We were heading toward Paris, but I didn't know it.

First there was the matter of a battle around Mortain that took about 5 days with the 30th Division. There was a hill that had to be taken, which the Jerry's held. The first bullet I heard I didn't know for sure what it was. I asked an infantryman by me and he said, "Oh, yeah, that was a bullet." When they are close they sound like "ZZZT," or bacon sizzling in a pan - only quick.

I hauled both Germans and Americans at the same time - dirty, grubby, unshaven, beat. G.I.s on one side - Jerry's on the other. They just sat there hardly looking at one another - not saying a word. Both were glad to be out of it.

My ambulance never failed me. Well, only once or twice and then it wasn't to blame. I tried to ford a river. Maybe the Seine - I don't know. It was about 100 yards across. The road went across and showed fresh tracks. I thought that I could make it too. I got out in the middle of the river and the ambulance drowned. It was too deep. Apparently there had been too much rain. I sat there for a while and here comes a Frenchman with a team of horses. He waded out and hooked on and pulled me out. Thanks very much. It took a while to dry out, but finally I got it started and away I went.

A lot of houses had wine cellars and they made good wine. When I came upon one I would grab a case and bring it back to the outfit. One night a lieutenant and I got some and got the wrong directions. We were in German territory. He had his .45 and I had my P-38, but it probably wouldn't have done any good. We made it back though.

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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.