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Lancaster County resident and last known survivor of WWII POW massacre dies at 99

Harold Billow was the last known survivor of a World War II POW massacre during the Battle of the Bulge.

  • The Associated Press
GI looks at corpses of American soldiers killed in Cold Blood by fire from German tank in Belgium on Dec. 17, 1944 after they had been captured.

AP Photo

GI looks at corpses of American soldiers killed in Cold Blood by fire from German tank in Belgium on Dec. 17, 1944 after they had been captured.

(Mount Joy) — 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 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 to try to change the war’s tide in December 1944.

According to various accounts, the Germans opened fire on the unarmed prisoners in a field, killing more than 80 in what came to be 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 as the Germans checked for survivors.

“Anybody that showed signs of life, they would point-blank shoot them in the head to finish them off,” Billow said.

Billow said he stayed there for several hours before he and other survivors bolted. He made his way through hedgerows before reaching the safety of American lines.

After the war, he was called to testify at 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 U.S. guards had coerced confessions.

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