MOUNT JOY, Pa. (WHTM) — A Midstate veteran was honored Monday by President Donald Trump for his service and bravery during the Malmedy Massacre in World War Two.
Millersburg-native Harold Billow, 97, was all smiles while accepting a letter of recognition from the President.
“I’ve gotten so much attention over the years it’s unbelievable,” Billow said.
December 17, 1944, is a day Billow says he will never forget. His 285th field artillery observation battalion was ambushed by Germans, armed with tanks.
Billow was riding in a vehicle near the end of the American convoy, headed toward Malmedy. He was in charge of setting up instruments that could pick up flashes and sounds from enemy guns.
But at a crossroads, Billow said a German panzer division found them.
“The Germans searched us, marched us up the road. They put all these guys in the field, there’s about 150 of us, in the field standing there with [our] hands up. And this German officer come up in a command car, he stood up…he shot one guy on the right side of me, and then he shot another guy on the left side of me. Then they opened up point blank spraying the field back and forth, trying to kill everybody. When the machine guns all stopped then the Germans walked through the field, and anybody that showed signs of life, they would point blank shoot them in the head, to finish them off. I went face down, flat down in the snow – cold, stayed there the rest of the day hoping I’d make it to get back to tell people what happened.”
Eighty four American soldiers were murdered in what would later be ruled a war crime. It was also considered Hitler’s last major offensive on the Western Front.
Billow was able to run away after lying in the freezing snow for hours; he was one of only a handful from the Massacre to eventually make it home alive.
Monday, more than seven decades later — and far from that snowy field in Belgium — billow received an official letter of thanks from President Donald Trump.
Lancaster County Commissioner, Josh Parsons, orchestrated the special letter during a recent trip to the White House.
“I’m an Army veteran sir, and I certainly didn’t do anything as meaningful as you did. I did my little part and I’m proud of it, but nothing as meaningful as you and your colleagues did when you freed Europe,” Parsons said. “Well deserved.”
Billow shocked his service is still remembered all these years later.
“I can hardly believe it that I’m the only survivor now, up until about two years ago, there were two of us,” he said.
In December, Billow met with the President before he took the stage in Hershey at the Giant Center for a rally. Billow was also invited on stage to lead the crowd of thousands in the Pledge of Allegiance.
“I’ll tell you — that was something, to meet the President of the United States in a crowd like that,” said Billow.