Pennsylvania’s entire congressional delegation – Republicans and Democrats alike — are united behind a bill to rename the Mount Joy post office for Harold W. Billow, a U.S. Army veteran who, when he passed away in May at 99, was the last living survivor of the 1944 Malmedy Massacre.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, who represents Mount Joy and all of Lancaster County, introduced a bill on Wednesday to make the name change official. If signed into law, as bipartisan bills like this usually are, the post office at 1 East Main Street in Mount Joy would be renamed as the Harold Billow Post Office Building.
“After returning home from the war, each Memorial Day, July 4th holiday, and Veterans Day since returning from the war Mr. Billow would honor and remember the 87 fellow soldiers lost during the Malmedy Massacre, by displaying 87 American flags in his front yard. He was truly a patriot and an exceptional member of the Greatest Generation,” Smucker said in introducing the measure.
During the Battle of the Bulge, Germany’s last-ditch attack against allied forces in Belgium and Luxembourg, Billow was among 120 American soldiers who were captured near the Belgian village of Malmedy on Dec. 17, 1944. Instead of being transferred to a POW camp, Billow and the others were lined up and the Germans opened fire; over 80 died but Billow fell down and laid still.
As survivors were being shot by the German SS troops, Billow said he heard another soldier yell, “Let’s get the hell out of here.” Billow ran and ultimately escaped to American lines.
In 2019, Billow told LNP reporter Earle Cornelius that he always paused on Dec. 17 to remember his fallen comrades.
Drafted in 1943, he was one of 10 from Lancaster County assigned to the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, which was part of the Allied invasion force that landed in Normandy, France.
Others included Luke Swartz and Ernest Bechtel, of Reinholds; Charles Haines, of Columbia; George Steffy, of Stevens; Carl Frey, of Hopeland; Sylvester Herchelroth and James Mattera, of Marietta; Robert “Sketch” Mearig, of Lititz; and Bill Reem, of Elizabethtown.
More than 20 soldiers managed to escape the massacre at Malmedy. But five countians — Frey, Haines, Herchelroth, Steffy and Swartz — were killed or wounded.
Billow lived and worked most of his life in Mount Joy.
Smucker’s Pennsylvania U.S. House colleagues — nine Democrats and eight Republicans — signed on as cosponsors. Local officials, including county Commissioner Josh Parsons, Mount Joy Mayor Tim Bradley and state Sen. Ryan Aument, issued statements in support of Smucker’s bill.