Long After WW2, A Veteran Returns an Important Family Heirloom

It was April 1 in 1945 – just a month before the end of World War II – when Private First Class Harold Lowell and Private First Class Billy Black, both of the 56th Armored Infantry Battalion, came under fire during a battle south of Wurzburg, Germany.

More than forty years later, Dick Lowell recounted the story as it had been told to him by his father. “See, Dad was a machine gunner, and Billy was feeding him ammo from a belt when Dad got hit,” he said. However, Lowell wasn’t content with just the story and had done some research of his own about the battle from his home in Brownville, Maine.

Both men sustained injuries during the fight – Billy Black was injured during his attempt to get Lowell to safety. Fortunately, Harold Lowell had his trusty knife; the steel blade measured eleven inches long and had a wooden handle and lead rivets. His name was even scratched into it. Lowell gave this knife to Black so that he could cut open his shirt and provide first-aid.

After he had handed the knife to Black, Dick explained, Harold told Billy that he should just keep it. It could come in handy later, should Billy need to provide medical care for another fallen soldier. In the end, the men reached safety. They survived that day, as well as the war, but they lost track of each other in the coming days.

Despite what Lowell had told him, Black had always intended to return the knife. In the chaos of war, however, he could not find Harold. The war ended, decades dissolved, and in 2005 Billy passed away. His son, Bill, took on the goal of fulfilling his father’s mission. He took to reading obituaries on military websites, hoping to find the name that was scratched on the knife.

His perseverance paid off; he found Harold Lowell’s family, including his son Dick, and grandson Justin. It was Justin who received Bill’s call. The initial call lasted only about twenty minutes, Dick recalled. It was emotional too. Justin told his father that Bill had been crying by the end of the call.

According to Dick, his father’s knife is valued about $1,600. Its sentimental value, however, far exceeds that. Dick plans to keep his father’s knife; it might be a little older, and a little more worn, but the knife is now proudly displayed in a case that he built specifically for that purpose.


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE