MOUNT JOY, Pa. (AP) — Harold Billow, 99, the last known survivor of a World War II POW massacre during the Battle of the Bulge, will be laid to rest Thursday in Pennsylvania.
Billow, who died on May 17, was attached to the Army’s 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion when his unit surrendered and he was taken prisoner by Waffen SS soldiers as German forces launched an offensive in Belgium in an attempt to turn the tide of the war in December 1944.
According to various accounts, the Germans opened fire on the unarmed prisoners in a field, killing over 80 people in what became known as the Malmedy massacre.
“As soon as the machine gun started firing, I went face down in the snow,” Billow told Lancaster Online in 2019.
He played dead while the Germans searched for survivors.
“Anyone who showed signs of life, they would shoot them point-blank in the head to finish them off,” Billow said.
Billow said he was there for several hours before he and other survivors fled. He made his way through the hedgerows before reaching the safety of American lines.
After the war, he was called to testify in a war crimes trial in which 43 German soldiers were sentenced to death for the Malmedy massacre. However, they were eventually released after investigators determined that US guards obtained a confession under duress.