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World War II mementos: Howell talks about his time in the service for Memorial Day

Ben Howell, Sr. keeps the five bullets doctors pulled out of his leg linked on a chain inside of a box in his house.


Former soldier Ben Howell, Sr., holds up a keychain with bullet fragments taken from his leg.
Photo by Kristopher Wells
The Thomson resident and World War II veteran said he doesn't know why he keeps them, but that they make for good show-and-tell.

"I go to some of the schools from time to time and give talks on World War II. They like to see the bullets," he said.

Mr. Howell served in Europe from October 1944 until April 1945 before he was shot six times in the leg by a German submachine gun. Now, 60 years later, he said the memories of war are still strong in his mind.

"War is such a waste of human life and suffering. We saw hundreds and hundreds of civilians that had been displaced, and they were starving and then the soldiers, well a lot of them got killed and a lot of them got permanently injured," he said.

Mr. Howell was a soldier in the reconnaissance cavalry. His unit traveled across Europe, seeing action in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.

"We were doing patrol work mostly for the ninth army, which would mean about 10-15 men would go out every night and capture prisoners and get all the information they could from them and come out the same night," he said.

After he was shot, Mr. Howell was rushed to several different hospitals in Europe, and after a two-month recovery in England he was shipped back to the United States.

Even with Memorial Day being earlier this week and the anniversary of D-Day right around the corner, Mr. Howell said his mindset towards military conflict -- and its consequences -- doesn't change.

"I know how expensive war is in terms of dollars and cents and total cost in human life. It's just not worth that," he said. "Of course, in this case it was, because Hitler would have taken this country if we hadn't stopped him."


Mr. Howell poses as a young soldier in 1944.
On a more positive note, he did say that his experience continues to play an active role in his life today. Next month, he and other soldiers are meeting up in New Orleans for a reunion. He also praised McDuffie County for its support of local veterans and said that the community is home to several noteworthy former soldiers.

"We have a lot of good veterans around here. (Pear Harbor survivor) Roger Reid was a good soldier. (Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry Wilson) was a good man too. We have a lot of good folks," he said.

Web posted on Thursday, June 3, 2004

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