LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Christmas of 1944 was not a normal holiday for American soldiers like Travis Johnson. As a member of the 78th Infantry Division, Johnson spent weeks that winter fighting the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge. He was an ammunition bearer, but he also used his jeep to transport wounded comrades to aid stations for medical treatment.
"We'd go right into the midst of battles and load my jeep up," said Johnson, 89, who lives in Lamar County. "When I got through my tour of that, I had nine shrapnel holes in my jeep, but none of them hit the working parts. I don't know where (the shots) came from or when (the enemy) hit it," he said.
In the spring of 1945, Johnson's unit was in northwest Germany, unsure of when the fighting would end. But, they knew a surrender was close when they came across hundreds of German soldiers who had laid down their arms.
"We went up to the top of a hill and looked down and we saw a bunch of people down there with their guns piled up, white flags and everything," Johnson said. "They were all grouped together, it looked like about 1,500 of them," he said.
It was a sight he and his fellow soldiers had been waiting a long time to see.
"I was glad, I said 'Praise The Lord.' Everyday, somebody would get killed that you knew, so it was just wonderful that it was over with," he said.
After the war, Johnson stayed in Germany for several months, on occupation duty. When he returned home, he worked for the telephone company and retired from there after a 30-year career.
This week, as the world marks the 70th anniversary of VE-Day (Victory in Europe) Johnson hopes all of us will remember his fellow soldiers who never returned home from the battlefield.
"In my outfit, I left 481 (killed in action)," Johnson said. "It just breaks my heart, sometimes." He added, "I think that the guys that didn't make it back, we'll never, never pay them what they are due, ain't no way, because they have passed on, but they gave their lives for this country."
A total of 407,316 U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines were killed in World War Two.