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Blood on German Snow

An African American Artilleryman in World War II and Beyond

By Emiel W. Owens

Publication Year: 2006

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.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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Illustrations

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pp. vii-

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Preface

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pp. 3-4

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....

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1. A Typical African American and a U.S. Citizen

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pp. 5-23

My early life was typical for a Southern, rural African American born in the United States in 1922. My father, mother, two brothers, one sister, and I lived on a farm as sharecroppers for a large landowner. Our house was situated near the Colorado River, so close in fact that on occasion I could hear the roar of the flowing water, and at times the water would rise and creep...

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2. So You're in the Army Now: Training

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pp. 24-35

On May 12, 1943, I said good-bye and caught the train from home, arriving at Fort Sam Houston four hours later. On my first day I was assigned to a barrack, given a physical examination, interviewed, and fitted for an army khaki uniform. As part of my interview, the sergeant wanted to know what I had been doing other than school and, in particular, if I hunted...

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3. To the War in Europe

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pp. 36-47

By August 1944, our training at Camp Beale was completed, so we were ready to move on. We packed our gear and boarded a train that transported us to an east coast port for embarkation for overseas duty. Our troop train left at sunrise. Just before boarding the train, I looked toward the east on my last early morning here at Beale and marveled at the sunrise. The morning...

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4. March to the German Front

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pp. 48-57

On October 25, 1944, we were preparing to pull out of our safe-haven, rear-echelon position at Bricquebosq with strict regulations. Front-line elements of our Ninth Army already were engaged in the great Allied push into the German heartland. Our time had come to move forward and support them in battle. As we packed our gear and loaded onto our tractor prime mover...

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5. In Battle in Europe

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pp. 58-98

As described by Edward G. Miller in "A Dark and Bloody Ground," in late 1944 U.S. forces advanced into the heavily wooded Hurtgen Forest, which was located southwest of Aachen, Germany. The forest covered about thirty square miles. Without a clear-cut reason for attacking the Germans through the forest, U.S. commanders still ordered seven divisions into the Hurtgen...

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6. To the Pacific and the Philippines

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pp. 99-104

I was informed at our fallout meeting that I had been reassigned to the 4416th Quartermaster Battalion. This battalion was stationed at Manila in the Philippines, and my ship was to leave that night. I packed my duffel bag and at 3:30 P.M. boarded a truck loaded with soldiers headed to the port of embarkation about thirty miles away. My seat was on the end at the tailgate...

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7. Heading Home, Heading North, Heading Out

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pp. 105-129

I was eager to return to college at Prairie View A&M University, which I attended before entering the army. (The name changed from Prairie View A&M College to Prairie View A&M University during the three years I was in the army.) I enrolled during January 1946, the second school semester, and graduated with a bachelor of science (B.S.) degree in plant...

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8. Summing Up

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pp. 130-133

This book is about my life before and after my service in the U.S. Army. My objective has been to make a record of some of the footprints I have made over my lifetime. They were made in the context of various time periods: from my being born into the false prosperity of the 1920s and brought up in the grim reality of the Depression of the 1930s; through my active participation...

Bibliography

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pp. 135-136

Index

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pp. 137-147


E-ISBN-13: 9781603445313
E-ISBN-10: 1603445315
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585445370
Print-ISBN-10: 1585445371

Page Count: 160
Illustrations: 22 b&w photos. 2 maps.
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series

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Subject Headings

  • Owens, Emiel W., 1922-.
  • United States. Army. Field Artillery Battalion, 777th.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Artillery operations, American.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Participation, African-American.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Western Front.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives, American.
  • Soldiers -- United States -- Biography.
  • African American soldiers -- Biography.
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