Billow, who died May 17, was attached to the Army’s 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion when his unit surrendered and he was taken prisoner by Waffen SS soldiers as German forces launched an offensive in Belgium to try to change the war’s tide in December 1944.
According to various accounts, the Germans opened fire on the unarmed prisoners in a field, killing more than 80 in what came to be known as the Malmedy Massacre.
“As soon as the machine gun started firing, I went face down in the snow,” Billow told Lancaster Online in 2019.
He played dead as the Germans checked for survivors.
“Anybody that showed signs of life, they would point-blank shoot them in the head to finish them off,” Billow said.
Billow said he stayed there for several hours before he and other survivors bolted. He made his way through hedgerows before reaching the safety of American lines.
After the war, he was called to testify at a war crimes trial in which 43 German soldiers were sentenced to death for the Malmedy Massacre.
However, they were eventually released after investigators determined U.S. guards had coerced confessions.