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Historical Society to host a WWII Liberator

May 07, 2014 - Their division earned the nickname, "Liberators," and during the last days of WWII they freed some 200,000 Allied prisoners of war from German prison camps. Included were approximately 20,000 American soldiers, sailors, and airmen, as well as an estimated 40,000 troops from the UK and Commonwealth.

Among the Liberators was a young Goodrich soldier—Richard Horton.

Horton, 94, will tell his story at 7 p.m., May 21 at the Old Mill, 366 Mill St. The event is hosted by the Ortonville Historical Society.

"They sent me to the troops assigned to the 14th Armored Division in Fort Campbell, Ky. I was glad to get out of Cincinnati," he said.

"I told them I would not mind being in a tank since I drove a gravel truck back in Goodrich before the war. The next thing I knew, I was driving a Sherman (tank). I thought, 'What the hell am I doing in this tank?'"

In November 1944, Horton, along with the 14th Armor, moved north from the area of Marseilles to Epinal, France via the railroad. Assigned to the M4 Sherman tank, Horton and a crew of five were heading east toward Germany and the Rhine River.

In January 1945, Horton was part of the Battle of Hatten-Rittershoffen in two small villages in France at the center of Hitler's Operation Northwind—his last attempt to halt the Allied advancement.

On Easter Sunday, April 1,1945, the 14th Armored Division moved across the Rhine River on a pontoon bridge into Wurms, Germany, and continued pursuit of the retreating Nazi troops through Lohr, Gemunden, Neustadt, and Hammelburg.

"We rolled into Hammelburg (Germany). I was ordered to crash over a fence and berm into an area of buildings that looked like barracks. It was an Allied prisoner of war camp—all these POWs rushed out toward my tank—Poles, Americans, Brits—they were freed. I remember the cheers. Someone told us the Germans heard us coming down the road and took off running. Many were ready to surrender at that point."

"We liberated a POW camp located just north of the town of Moosburg in southern Bavaria, Germany at the end of April in 1945. There had to be 100,000 prisoners in there. One POW I spoke with said they boiled grass in water to eat—he told me he'd lost 70 pounds since he'd been in there."

Horton was in Muldorf, Germany when the war ended, and returned home in November 1945.

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