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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

I didn't cross that bridge, but crossed a pontoon bridge right beside it. During the Bulge it was such cold and nasty weather that our planes couldn't fly. But when they did get up, the Germans caught it. The American airplanes just hammered the Germans.

By the end of March we had gained several miles across the Rhine. We were back and forth on the line from North to South with different outfits. Three or four ambulances here and others somewhere else. We were all separated.

When we got into Germany there were a lot of hungry people. If they were lucky they cut off a steak from a dead cow or horse if it hadn't been dead too long. At one place the people had a big kettle on the stove and one of the guys said, "I wonder what's in that kettle?" He took the lid off and there was a horse's head in there - teeth and eye balls showing. Yuk! I suppose it made good soup, but I didn't stick around to find out.

When we got into Germany a couple of us guys came upon an underground machine shop. There were all kinds of machines there; drills, presses, and other machines. There was a German officer there in charge. We thought that we would have some fun. We started machines running and the officer about went nuts. We would run one for a while then start another and have that running. The officer would come behind us and shut them off. We had several going at once. We didn't pay any attention to him. We finally tired of that and left him alone. Then we went on to another place.

The war would have been over sooner but the Hitler Youth - the young S.S. wanted to fight. They held on in small groups here and there. There was nothing else we could do but take care of them. The older men saw the futility of fighting and a lot surrendered, but not the youth. The older men hurried to surrender to the Americans. They didn't want to be a prisoner of the Russians.

I drove by the ovens that they had used to kill the Jews, but I didn't go in.

I was lucky not to have to carry a gun on the front lines. We dug fox holes, but not all of the time because I was on the move transporting wounded and sometimes prisoners back. We were not far from the front most of the time, close to the artillery and subject to shelling.

There's a lot that I can't remember about it and this is just the highlights. We were trained physically, but not mentally. Letters came in spurts. Sometimes for weeks there would be no mail. Then when they caught up with us we got 3 or 4 or more. And we couldn't write much. And we couldn't say anything about the war. They censored every letter.

What I remember most is the dead, the living wounded, the dying, and you couldn't help them. The driving, driving in the dark - not being able to see. I'd take a load back to a field hospital, but where was it? Somehow I found it. And there would be so many wounded that they couldn't take care of them. Sometimes the docs tried to do too much. They should have sent them on. There were a few women in the field hospitals and they did a wonderful job. Sometimes they were hit with artillery shells and bombs too. I've had those infantry guys ask, "How did you ever make it? How did you find the hospital?"

I don't remember eating much or sleeping much. At times I'd stop in to an artillery outfit or engineer outfit around dinner and got a meal. They always fed a medic. Other times there was a break in the action. Then we got a little rest, but not for long. Very little time was I with my own outfit. We were attached to infantry divisions from one end to the other and I seen a lot of territory. Some towns were untouched, but an awful lot were in shambles.

There was talk of women on the front lines. OK, if women fight women. They are not strong enough to take the hard going. Back in field hospitals yes. For one thing a man didn't get to change his clothes for weeks. And there's the problem of going potty too. They would be raped before they were shot. Maybe in a different kind of war, yes.

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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.