East Texan writes a memoir of his chilling war experiences - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

East Texan writes a memoir of his chilling war experiences

By Bob Hallmark - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

GILMER, TX (KLTV) - At this time 64 years ago, he saw first-hand the final days of World War II. Now, an East Texan is committing those memories to paper.

Bill Johnston is preparing a book on his days as a medic in Patton's army during the war's end, giving chilling accounts of his front line experience, and his eye-witness accounts of the remnants of the holocaust. Though it seems a world away now, 84-year-old Johnston remembers vividly the final months of World War II in Europe.

"We landed in southern France invasion of France August 15th 1944," he said. "We had hopes that it was coming to an end. We'd hoped it was coming to an end."

An army combat medic, he was with General Patton's 3rd Army as they stormed to the heart of Germany. Then, the full measure of horrors inflicted on a subjected people became apparent. He saw holocaust survivors.

"[You] see grown people like you or I [who are] supposed to have a body like you and I yet had bodies just bone, skin stretched over more or less starved to death," he said. "You'd see hand here, arms missing legs missing. When you have people dying in your arms your working on them and you lose them."

But any eerie memory haunts Johnston as his unit was being loaded onto a train at war's end.

"It made you wonder when you were traveling, was this the same cars that the Jews used to go to the concentration camps?"

With much attention being paid to harsh interrogation in this time, Johnston has a differing opinion.

"Ours would look like a strawberry shortcake compared to what they did," he said.

His generation saved humanity in the greatest war of all, a lesson he hopes this generation won't forget.

Bill Johnston's son is putting together his memoirs for publication. After the war, Johnston became a sheriff in the Fort Worth area, and retired without ever being wounded either on combat or on patrol.

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