Howard Woody: World War II Veteran

Howard Woody in UniformTaken a few days before his unit shipped off to the war.


I’ve seen so much wickedness in my life. The war was terrible. I’ve been fifty years trying to forget it.
-Howard Woody


From 1940 to 1946, Howard Woody served during WWII with the 104th Infantry Division, Army. Six years of war left its indelible impression, and he learned first-hand what it meant to serve his country. As one of the few remaining WWII Veterans in Uinta County, Wyoming, Howard shared his family’s history and his experiences in World War II in the 2016 biography called “Phone Where the Buffalo Roamed” by Terry A. Del Bene. The following are excerpts from this book:

“Howard recalled landing on the Normandy beachheads between Omaha and Utah beaches. He described the scene in an interview: “We went right up the mountain between Omaha and Utah Beach. It was pretty spooky. The fact is you are so scared that…the war got as narrow as one man. The only thing you were thinking about was staying alive. And so, you went up through there and after you got through you wondered how you ever did. We got up and out of the shooting and behind the Germans and we got separated from our outfit. We were lost and we didn’t have any food.” Page 92

"…Howard was wounded more than once during his service. On one occasion, Howard was hit by “friendly fire” in the form of shrapnel splinters in his neck…" Page 93

 

Corpses at Mittelbau Dora Concentration Camp WWII
Working in a scene reminiscent of depictions of Hell, Howard snapped this image of rows of corpses at the Mittelbau Dora Concentration Camp. 

“…on March 25, 1945, the 104th Infantry Division liberated the Mittelbau Dora Concentration Camp near Nordhausen, Germany. When they arrived, the liberating forces found a scene from hell. Roughly five thousand of the six thousand political prisoners held there and forced to work on Hitler’s vengeance rocket program were dead, and the survivors were a mere whisper away from death…

...Before fleeing, the Nazi guards had starved, shot, and beaten to death as many inmates as possible. The Nazis left bodies stacked like cordwood, piles of severed arms and legs, and a thousand living skeletons for the Americans to try and save. The 104th must have done this difficult job extremely well, because on the fiftieth anniversary of the camp’s liberation, eight hundred survivors of Mittelbau Dora attended the commemoration ceremony that was held at the site. Howard and the other MPs of the division were dispatched to the camp to help save the remaining prisoners, and to oversee the forced recruitment of the Germans in the nearby town to help bury the thousands of rotting corpses. Howard doesn't talk about this episode except to confirm he was there...

... The MPs also forced German civilians from the area to work as laborers, and to witness to the atrocities committed by their nation. These are some of the memories he wished he could forget." Page 95

“Like so many others, Howard was affected deeply by the war. Faced with the smells of cordite, rotting corpses, and burning towns, he found himself longing for the familiar smell of Wyoming’s sagebrush. It was a perfectly sane reaction to the insane world of war. It was a desire to return to a culture of civility, and to leave the memories of the limits of human cruelty behind, Esther, the love of his life, and his first son, John G., were so far removed from the horrors of war in France and Germany. Howard’s old life in the Rocky Mountain West must have seemed like a hazy dream calling to him in those quiet moments. Even seventy years after the war, Howard still avoided talking about it if he could help it. His reluctance to recall his acquaintance with the restless ghosts of France, Holland, and Germany was not difficult to understand.” Page 97

Howard Woody sitting with a friend during WWII

                                                                                                                     Howard and an unidentified soldier sharing a relaxing moment in Germany.





For a copy of Phone Where the Buffalo Roamed” by Terry A. Del Bene, click here.



Credits:

"Phone Where the Buffalo Roamed" by Terry A. Del Bene, including excerpts and photographs.

Contributed by Angelica Mecham.