D-Day WWII vet from Michigan dies week before invasion's 75th anniversary

World War II veteran Harold Amstutz, who took part in the D-Day invasion, is seen at right with helmet on. He died on May 31, 2019.


By SPENCER DURHAM | The Daily Telegram, Adrian, Mich. | Published: June 8, 2019

Harold Amstutz was born on June 14, 1925, but considered June 6, 1944, his real birthday.

"He felt like he was reborn there," his daughter, Susan Amstutz, said.

June 6, 1944, was when the Deerfield veteran landed on the beaches of Normandy, part of the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division, 8th Regiment, during the World War II invasion of Western Europe by the Allies now known as D-Day. It's 75th anniversary is being observed today. The unit was the first group to land at Utah Beach, one of the landing sites on the French coast.

The 4th Infantry Division was the first infantry to enter Paris too.

The unit continued on through Belgium toward the Siegfried Line, a German defense line opposite of France's Maginot Line. An Allied offensive against the Siegfried Line took place from September 1944 to March 1945.

Forces moved forward to the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, a lengthy battle in Germany lasting from Sept. 19 to Dec. 16, 1944. The conflict was the longest battle on German ground during the war and is the single longest battle the U.S. Army ever fought.

However, the battle is often overlooked as the Battle of the Bulge followed.

Amstutz, who died at the age of 93 on Friday, was part of those conflicts.

The Daily Telegram spoke with Susan about her father's experience. The following information was provided by Susan.

Growing up, Susan and her father would watch old movies about the war. Harold would talk about certain aspects of the war, usually the happier things.

One of Harold's favorite memories was when American forces sought refuge in an abandoned home in Belgium. I t was cold and wet and soldiers huddled together to keep warm. The beautiful tiles around the fireplace always stayed with him.

"That's one of his fondest memories," Susan said.

Harold was a sergeant and would perform scouting duties for the unit. He would scope out an area prior to soldiers moving through and report back.

Snow and pine trees made scouting difficult in the German terrain. Vision was limited and opposing forces would hide.

Harold and a group got lost on one scouting assignment and ended up in a remote town, untouched by the war. They received food and shelter and performed chores around town.

"I'm sure it seemed like heaven," Susan said. "It was like being home for a short time."

The group stayed in the town for a couple of days before a different group of American forces came upon the town.

"Dad and his friends stopped them and made sure they knew they were friendly and to not bomb the town," Susan said.

As she got older, Susan heard about the atrocities and horrors of war. Yet, she is sure her and her brothers never heard all the stories.

Harold saw the horrors of the Holocaust as he was part of groups that made it to the Dachau and Buchenwald concentrations camps.

At 5 years old, Harold had nightmares of burying bodies in boxcars. In his teens, he had the dreams again.

"His mother told us it started at a very young age," Susan said.

Susan said her father helped bury bodies at Buchenwald. People were oftened transported to concentration camps via railroad boxcars. Susan said they have pictures depicting it.

Harold returned to the states on July 10, 1945. Susan said her father could have gone to the Pacific but did not want to go back.

He later reenlisted and worked for the Secret Service, but that did not last long and he returned home again.

"He just wanted to come home. He was sick of it," his daughter said.

Harold came home and farmed, his first love. He farmed with his sons for the rest of his life.

The Deerfield veteran had a "fearless love of life" after the war, according to his daughter.

"He was never afraid of anything," she said.

His generosity and encouragement is what friends and family will remember, Susan added.

Harold would have probably declined an interview for this story, especially on the anniversary of D-Day.

Susan said her father hated the "thank yous" and the recognition.

"I think part of it was he came back," she said, alluding to the number of casualties the infantry suffered. "I think that's why he didn't want to be thanked."

But his daughter said he didn't feel guilty that he returned home. It was more along the lines of "I shouldn't have lived through that."

But Harold did want people to know what happened.

"He wanted people to remember that it happened, how horrible it was," Susan said. "He wanted people to remember that."


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