On the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, Harold Billow of Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, remembers his experience of the Malmedy Massacre, part of one of the bloodiest battles of World War Two.
Harold was 21 and a soldier in Battery B, 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion. On December 17, 1944 he was with his battalionriding in jeeps and trucks towards St. Vith in Belgium. The day before the Battle of the Bulge had begun, and Harold’s battalion was heading straight into it.
As they maneuvered out of the town of Malmedy and headed south on the N23 the battalion was assaulted by a German SS unit called Kampfgruppe Peiper, led by the notorious Lt. Colonel Jochen Peiper. They were aiming to decimate the US troops.
Some of the US vehicles at the front managed to speed away, but around 130 soldiers remained trapped.They were all gathered by the Nazi SS troop, taken to a field off the roadside behind a café, where all of them stood and waited.
After about an hour, Harold remembers the Germans began to set up machine guns on top of their tanks, when an SS officer pulled up drawing his pistol immediately and began to shoot the US soldiers. They then began to use the machine guns to shoot all the soldiers en masse.
Harold says that they were aiming to kill everyone because they had been ordered not to take prisoners. The killing spree grew as more Germans joined in. The US soldiers were helpless against a battery of machine gun and small arm fire.
Harold even saw a medic, Corporal Ralph Indelicato, trying to help an injured man when they were both shot in the head. Some US soldiers were able to run away and escape successfully, whilst others dropped to the ground and pretended to be dead. Some did manage to play dead, others were not as successful as the Germans continued to haphazardly shoot the living and already dead.
Harold laid there for several hours, he wanted to survive so he could tell people about what had happened. After some time, another US soldier called to his still alive comrades and suggested they get up and run, several men including Harold did. The Germans tried to shoot the soldiers as they ran.
Several made it back to the roadside café, but the SS troops had seen them enter and set it alight, killing the US soldiers as they tried to escape the fire. Harold luckily kept running across the road and on westwards. He finally ran into a US engineering battalion, the Lancaster Online reports.
A total of 87 US soldiers died in the Malmedy Massacre. After the war, many survivors testified at the Nuremburg trialsagainst the German officers who took part.Today, Harold is one of only two men to be still living from the 285th battalion. Every year Harold commemorates his fellow soldiers and decorates his front lawn with 87 American flags.