Experiences in World War II
From Omaha Beach to the Malmédy Massacre
Howard E. Nixon
6 April 1923 - 29 December 2001
A house was built in the wall of the park where we were at. Bill Chasteen
and I discovered that a candy bar to the old lady in the house would let us out
at night. We went out to supper with a couple of girls. There was fighting in
the streets then. One of the girls was excited about something. We found out
that her boss was shot out of the upstairs window. They gave us a good meal one
dish at a time with wine. I was thirsty for water, but the water was not good.
I was getting groggy from the wine - so when they weren't looking I drank the
water anyway. Then we had to go back to our outfit in the dark. We had to cross
the river bridge with bullets spanging off the walls, but we made it.
A couple of guys thought that they would check out the Notre Dame
cathedral. They went in, but discovered Germans were behind the altar. The
Germans started shooting and our guys dived behind the seats. The Germans were
captured. All of the churches had bullet holes in them.
One night we were on an ambulance run and a bomb hit a house right beside
me on the street. It blew the house to smithereens. We were in Paris about a
week and moved out. It took a week or more for the French to clear out all of
The Germans kept backing up a little at a time. We went toward Verdun - a
World War I battlefield with its cemeteries. World War I soldiers were buried
there and soldiers passed by the graves of their uncles or even fathers. There
were more dead horses, cattle, and sheep. Some of the dead horses were still
hitched to wagons. The Germans had eaten on some of the horses. The battle
raged on and on.
One night we moved to the front in a cold raining night. I was so tired
that I couldn't keep awake. Oh for a little sleep. The convoy stopped for a
minute. I went to sleep and woke with a start. I thought that they had left me.
I threw the ambulance in gear and took off. I slammed right into Wayne Scott's
ambulance. Out he come. "What the hell are you doing?" What could I
say? I had caved the back end of his ambulance in, but with a little hammering
he could shut the doors and lock them.
There were men who got shell shock or battle fatigue. They were like
zombies. They just stood and stared. We had to take them by the hand and lead
them around. They were out of it for a while. I don't know if they ever came
back. Some wounded were treated and sent back to their front line units.
| Me at the Siegfried Line in
Those missing in action were never found, of course not. Often times
there was nothing left of them. Maybe there would be a shoe or helmet, but
nothing else. A lot of men missing in action were captured. A whole lot of them
died in German prison camps. Their food was horrible and they were cramped in
close quarters giving rise to diseases.
By this time we were getting close to Aachen and the Siegfried Line. It
was a line of row upon row of cement pillars set in the ground. It was designed
to stop tanks or anything else. It didn't work. They blew a hole in them and
bulldozed their way through. I have a picture of me on the line in 1944 and
again in 1984 when I went back to visit.
The town of Verdun still had evidence of World War I - old fence
entanglements, old hand grenades - what they called potato mashers. The old
trenches were also there.
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