Our Writing Center Press recently published a World War II soldier’s memoirs of his time in the army during most of the major battles of that war. From Cobbs Creek . . . To The Rhine : My Struggles in World War II 1942-1945 by Harry J. Houldin. Getting her father’s story told is a loving tribute from his daughter Madeline Marr.
Houldin was a young man from Philadelphia who fleshed out his war experiences from a small notebook in which he recorded each event. Harry typed his story on an old manual typewriter. His wife and later his daughter kept his treasured manuscript vowing to one day publish it.
The 176-page illustrated book is available online from Amazon. Below is one chapter.
To the Bulge
By PFC Harry J. Houldin
As we drove through Eupen and the Ardennes, it started to snow and hail. Our windshields were down and it was blowing right in our faces. Now a ride like that is no joy ride and I was a well-chilled article when we arrived at our destination at around six that night.
Our first mission was to find some German parachute troops that had landed behind our lines. There were a couple of feet of snow on the ground, and, as we entered the woods, we found their parachutes but did not find them.
They were attacking trucks moving up with supplies.
However, we did get a couple of them who had landed and had hurt their legs, not being able to find their comrades. I questioned one of them, a kid about 19 years old. He told me that when he landed from his jump he couldn’t find his gang, so surrendered.
I took 35 dollars in Dutch money from him and the other guys took his other stuff. He was one scared German. As I took his dough I told him that I would have a drink on him on my next furlough, if I ever got another one.
As I said, this gang of German parachute troops were in that area someplace, and were harassing supply trucks and lone jeeps. We were patrolling the highway and woods in that area and succeeded in picking up a few of them.
The Lieutenant and I took them back to the rear on my jeep. I got a break here as I had a hot meal at MP headquarters in Eupen.
The Ardennes were like our Pocono Mountains, a sort of honeymoon spot for Germans and Belgians. Very picturesque, but we were not enjoying the scenery under the conditions. It was no honeymoon for me. I didn’t do much sleeping that night. The best spot I could find was in the front seat of a truck that was nearby. I woke up once to find a German plane flying overhead. He had dropped a couple of flares, lighting up the area and I was waiting for him to drop his load. He did, about a mile away.
For about the first two or three days the Germans had driven through our lines like a dose of salts and had knocked the hell out of a couple of our divisions and were well on their way to Liege before they were stopped. The front lines were in a state of confusion during this time. You were liable to run upon a group of Germans any place.
We were busy checking this town and that to see whether we had it or Jerry. (Jerry is the nickname soldiers called Germans.) We got in one town called Weems. The Germans were all around it and we sighted a German tank in the fields. It had knocked out one of our armored cars and someone spotted some German infantry coming our way. We hastily set up a defense and I found myself on one side of a hill in front of the armored cars waiting for Germans to come over the hill.
That night a German jeep drove into town. They thought it was in German hands. One of our men, Newkirk, opened up on it with a machine gun and killed the driver. The other Jerries jumped out and got away in the dark. We didn’t do any sleeping that night.
An armored outfit moved in and we left the area. By that time more reinforcements were arriving.