Corporal Harold Heins
Service Branch: United States Army
Combat Action: WWII - Europe
Home Town: David City
Military Specialty: Artilleryman
Unit: Battery "C," 546th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion,44th Infantry Division, Third Army
Decorations, Citations, and Awards: - National Defense Service Medal, European Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Ribbon, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal
Battery “C” was assigned to provide “Triple-A” protection for General Patton’s Third Army headquarters against enemy air attack. Whenever the General’s HQ moved, Battery “C’s” caissons rolled along. Things were never relaxed around General Patton. The Germans were more afraid of him than they were of General Eisenhower. After all, it was Patton who had defeated the legendary German Field Marshall, Erwin Rommel, in North Africa. Corporal Harold Heins, and Battery “C” had their hands full with so many brass hats traipsing all over the place.
Things really got tense when Germany’s counter-attack along the Belgium/Northern France border created a huge westward “bulge” in the battle lines. To hold the line, Patton moved to the Front and ordered all rear support units to move forward with him. Corporal Heins and Battery “C” were in it for real, now – Winter was coming and the Battle of the Bulge was raging in full pitch. Leading the German advance were the Panzer tanks, mechanized armor divisions. “Blitzkrieg” or “lightning strike” tactics had won the day for the German invasions of Poland and Belgium, six years previously, and they were winning this battle. Allied forces, including Battery “C,” could hear the advancing armor. That’s how close they were. Then, suddenly – a mile-and-a-half away from the fuel depot that Battery “C” was protecting, they stopped…dead in their tracks. The Germans abandoned their tanks and fled in full retreat. They had run out of diesel fuel. It was Spring, the battle was won, and the Allies resumed their advance.
On April 4, 1945, Corporal Heins and Battery "C" were moving up the line with 4th armored Division near the German city of Weimar when they came upon a strange and ghastly sight - a work cam ewith high, barbed-wire fences, gun towers, hovels for buildings, nearly-starved-to-death emaciated people, and piles upon piles of dead and rotting human remains.
This was Ohrdruf - the first Nazi Death Camp to be discovered by Allied forces. When the prisoners saw that their liberation had been delivered, those who were able began attacking, mercilessly beating, and atrociously torturing the German guards. It was all the Allied soldiers could do to stop the melee. Ohrdruf was such an unspeakable horror that Generals Patton, Bradley, and Eisenhower had to see it for themselves.
It's been nearly 70 years, but Harold Heins still cannot get those images out of his mind. Stand easy, Corporal. You accomplished your mission.