As he laid face-down on the snowy ground in a field at the Baugnez crossroads on December 17th 1944 he had to stifle his breath while “playing dead”. A slight movement will result in instant execution by German Waffen-SS soldiers. Harold Billow of the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion have just been taken prisoners by a Kampfgruppe lead by SS-Obersturmbannführer Peiper. At this crossroad two miles outside Malmedy 87 of Billow’s comrades are executed.
Facilitated by his grandson Chad Hohenwarter The Log Book was honored with Harold Billow’s signature 27 April 2019. His signature is a chilling read – we are honored to carry your story Sir!
The Malmedy Massacre
Around 1pm on 17 December 1944 a German spearhead of SS-Sturmbannführer Joachim Peiper’s group approaches the Baugnez crossroads, two miles south-east of Malmedy. At the same time an American convoy of about 30 vehicles are negotiating the same crossroad. Predominately the convoy consist of elements from B Battery of the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion (FAOB). The German spearhead spots the American convoy and opens fire. They immobilize the first and last vehicle which forces the convoy to halt. Armed with only rifles and small arms the Americans se no other option than surrendering to the German tank force.
The American prisoners are assembled in a field together with other prisoners captured earlier that day. Survivors testifies that there are about 120 American troops standing in the field held captive by German troops.. For unknown reasons the German SS troops suddenly opens fire on the prisoners. As panic ensues some POWs try to flee but most are shot where they stood. A few did what Harold Billow did and dropped to the ground pretending to be dead. Survival is solely dependent on the ability to appear dead as SS troops walked among the bodies. Anyone who appear to still be alive are shot at point blank range, some are beaten to death by rifle butts.
Making a run for it
Together with some other surviving men Billow eventually made a run for it out of the field. They escape to a small house (Cafe Bodarwe) near the crossroads. Billow knows they are not safe in the house as a German tank stands outside, he know they must have been spotted going into the house. He leaves the house and runs across a road into a hedgerow nearby and continues to run along hedgerows under fire. After running through fields he meets elements of the 30th Armored Division moving through the area.
Billow tell the story himself on the following link: https://www.ww2online.org/view/harold-billow
One can not imagine the horror it must have been to lay there among the slain bodies of your comrades while SS soldiers were looking for any signs of life. Fate will have it that he survives this atrocity committed.
For every national holiday celebrated Billows says that he decorates the front yard of his Mount Joy home with 87 flags to commemorate the men who perished in Malmedy by the hands of the Waffen-SS.
Last Updated on 3 January 2022 by Lars McKie