WILLIAM G. HOWARD JR.

Master Sergeant | Infantry

Beyond thick hedgerow lays dead, stinking cows, their flesh that rotted over days in humidity emitted an odor so thick you would thought you could see it.  By nightfall on July 4, M Company had made it two miles against the 17th S.S. Panzer Grenadiers, one of Hitler's best units that posed as a serious adversary for the untested 330th Infantry.  They gave them a serious beating the next night when the regiment planned a surprise attack, but the Germans moved first.

The 330th persevered and pushed on into the swamps around Tribehon where Bill saw the toughest fighting of the Normandy campaign.  With the infantry cut off for 72 hours, M Company's mortars lobbed shells so rapidly their tubes were visibly red hot and burnt out.  After making it through this hell, they took a few days off the line before moving into Brittany on July 29 with a mechanized task force.

Heading to Brest, the war was fast and resistance was thin.  The 330th Infantry was assigned the task of clearing small pockets of resistance and left the rest of the 83d Division behind for the operation.  When Bill reached the city, he marveled at the warm welcome from the locals, especially the women, who showered the GIs with praise, flowers, cognac, cider, and kisses.  It was a gleaming moment in a dismal war.

Summer began to subside and the desperate Germans turned their coastal guns inland to pummel the Americans with those monstrous weapons until the end of September when the huge move south came.  The 83d Division then fought through the Hurtgen and into the Ardennes after the new year.  Bill felt the temperatures drop, snow coat the land, and then melt away, revealing soggy carnage that it concealed as they moved into the Rhineland and finally into Germany.

*

The winter in Korea reminded Bill Howard of his time in the Ardennes, though it was much drier with dusty snow that drifted softly against the hills.  He remembered at the end of the war in Europe how they had all been resolute in praying that such brutality never happened again, that the world would not see another war.  In a way, this made Korea that much worse.

The patrol on January 13, 1952 was like any other - quiet until finding the enemy, which then usually meant loss of life.  Two platoons from G Company went out mid-morning acting as raiding parties.  For two hours they were pinned down between Monks Hood Hill and Silver Star Hill, where a few squads of Chinese were throwing rifle and machine gun fire at the men of the 38th Infantry.  It was fierce enough to force the parties to withdraw and it took until 3:00 pm that afternoon to make it back to friendly lines.

The return hike was long and somber.  In the trenches and bunkers occupied by the 38th Infantry, the GIs wondered nervously what the delay was until the two platoons trudged up the slopes.  Slung between two tired men was the rugged six-foot body of Master Sergeant Howard.  It was difficult recovering his body under fire without further casualties, but they refused to leave him behind.  Taking great care to keep his face covered to hide his awful head wound, soldiers took turns lugging him back to friendly lines where Bill departed for his final journey home.

    EXHAUSTING & DIRTY WORK - THE RCM COLLECTION

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