70 years later veterans still haunted by German atrocities - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

70 years later veterans still haunted by German atrocities

Posted: Updated:

It's been 70 years since American troops stormed the beaches of Normandy to expel enemy forces from Europe.

Today, flags of the allied countries hang on virtually every street corner in Normandy. And once in while you will also see a German flag.

But who were the Germans of the past? And have old animosities finally lifted between foes?

Ask Curtis Outen about the Germans in World War II and he'll tell you the many ways he remembers they almost killed him.

"We ran out to an open field like this, and the Germans started firing at us and we were within throwing distance," said the Army veteran. "I made it  back and the rest of them didn't."

He's seen the damage the guns from the hidden bunkers above the beach could do to battleships up to 20 miles away, and he lost friends in the war.

"I saw one of my buddies four or five feet from me get a direct hit in the foxhole, and it blew him up in the air," Outen said. "When he come back down, his intestines and stuff were hanging out. And it took him a minute before he died. He just hollered."

"They would collect prisoners out in the field and shoot them with a machine gun hidden in a truck," said Leif Maseng, a veteran of the 82nd Airborne. "Can you believe that? They got everything they deserved."

But who made up this destructive German force? High school history teacher Perry Mcleod's grandfather was one of them.

 "I know my grandfather did not want to go. He had eight children, he didn't want to go fight and get killed," Mcleod said.

By the end of The war much of the German army was made up of conscripts--captured Polish and Russians who had no choice but to fight for Hitler or die.

"When the Americans invaded, some of the Polish soldiers turned on the Germans and shot their commander and just waited there until the Americans came," said amateur World War II historian Dr. Ed Moore.

Mcleod's grandfather was eventually captured in Berlin.

"He had his elbows broken, his teeth knocked out," said Mcleod of his grandfather. "From my memories of him, he was just very gentle."

German troops have a somber, understated presence at many of the D-Day memorial ceremonies. 

"I know a lot of veterans have never felt too close to the German people," Moore said. "They saw a lot of atrocities. And some of the veterans on our trip weren't so keen on visiting the German cemetery, It just brings back too many memories"

After returning from the war it wasn't easy for Outen to forgive.

"It took me ten years. Ten years or more. I had nightmares."

And to this day, he says he'll never forget.

Between seven and nine million German civilians and soldiers were killed in World War II. For Americans, that number was closer to half a million."

Powered by WorldNow