Blood on German Snow: An African American Artilleryman in World War II and Beyond

Blood on German Snow: An African American Artilleryman in World War II and Beyond

Blood on German Snow: An African American Artilleryman in World War II and Beyond

Blood on German Snow: An African American Artilleryman in World War II and Beyond

Synopsis

Emiel Owens served his country in the 777th Field Artillery, involved in actions from Omaha Beach to the occupation army in the Philippines. Like the rest of the U.S. Army at the time, the 777th was a segregated unit. Remarkably few memoirs by African Americans have been published from the World War II era, making Owens's account especially valuable. Because he situates his military experience in the larger context of his life and the society in which he lived, his story also reveals much about the changing racial climate of the last several decades. A native Texan, Owens recounts his early experiences in a small, rural school outside Austin during the hard times of the Depression. In 1943, he was drafted into the army, landing in England in August 1944. Ten days later he was on Omaha Beach. By November 3 Owens and his unit were supporting the 30th Infantry Division as it attacked German towns and cities leading into the Ruhr Pocket and the Huertgen Forest. Owens starkly portrays the horror of the Kohlscheid Penetration. He was awarded a certificate of merit for his actions in that theater. With help from the G.I. bill, Owens returned to college and then to graduate school at Ohio State University, since universities in his home state were still closed to African Americans. He earned a Ph.D. in economics, which led to a productive academic and consulting career. This is a uniquely captivating story of an African American man's journey from a segregated Texas town to the battlefields of Europe and on to postwar success in a world changed forever by the war Americans--black and white--had fought.

Excerpt

This book details my life as a field artilleryman in the U.S. Army. It is a personal story about what happened to me as a soldier—my training, places I traveled, how I lived, combat experiences in Western Europe, battles I fought, two ocean crossings, and four crossings of the English Channel. It is also about the people I met and a first-person account of war as I witnessed it during three and a half years in the service. the title, Blood on German Snow, relates to a battle on Germany’s western front in which I took part while my battalion was attached to the xvi Corps and the 35th Infantry Division. the xvi Corps had amassed some five thousand guns on the west bank of the Rhine River in preparation for our crossing. My gun, number 3, Battery B, 777th Field Artillery Battalion, received the task of leading the charge by firing the first rounds at targets on the east side of the river in the town of Mehrum, Germany. in unison the five thousand guns followed, firing for three hours beginning at 1:00 A.M. on March 25, 1945. We ceased firing at 3:00 A.M., commenced crossing the river at 4:00 A.M., and had a bridgehead established on the east side in the vicinity of Verden, Germany, by sunrise.

My story begins with some details of my early life at home, work, and school and finally my induction into the army. I include this information because I believe that background is in many ways crucial in assessing a soldier’s capability—particularly with regard to carrying out duties under extremely adverse conditions, where I believe that an individual’s values and sense of duty and loyalty are ingrained at an early age. in my case, my home life defined virtue in the classic sense of fortitude and courage.

Part of my story is also about the last conversations I had with my cousin Zelmo Owens, who lived with my two brothers and me at my grandmother’s house. His home was in a rural area, so he lived with us to attend high school. in the early part of 1941 the radio airwaves were full of talk of war, and it was on the minds of the people on the streets in my part of Smithville, Texas, in “Low Woods.” Zelmo and I would soon be about the right age to fight in a war, and we felt a patriotic duty to serve our country if we were . . .

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