World War II veteran recalls time in Europe

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INDIANAPOLIS - It's been more than 70 years since Germany fell to the U.S. and the Allies. One veteran can still remember his time fighting like it was yesterday.

Elmer Holland, 94, was drafted in 1943. He left his Kentucky home for basic training in Alabama, where he spent five months training in chemical warfare. He said he was shipped overseas to Oran, North Africa.

In July of 1943, he saw battle during the Invasion of Sicily.

"We went through Italy and into southern France," Holland said. "We took that over, and then went into northern France and Austria."

Holland was also part of D-Day. While thousands of Americans stormed the beaches of Normandy, Holland was part of a fleet that marched 12 miles along a beach at Marseille, France to sneak up on the German army.

“We waded across a river and went up the other side, came up behind the Germans and they surrendered to us," said Holland.

Holland began his military career using a rocket launcher and a Browning automatic rifle. However, that changed when he was diagnosis with cirrhosis of the liver and hepatitis.

Holland said he didn't think anything was wrong when they first ordered him to go to the first aid tent. “They said, you’re finished with front lines, they re-classified me and made me medical," he said.

In February of 1946, Holland would get an honorable discharge and return to the states. A three-year tour that, at times, he wasn't sure how it would end.

"I was scared every other day," Holland said.

Even now, there are parts of the war Holland will not discuss with family.

"There is some bad times that we didn't hear and he's never talked about," said Holland's son Harold Holland, who was able to ask his father for advice when he was drafted to fight in Vietnam.

Elmer's time overseas earned him several medals and honors, they include:

  • European African Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon
  • Silver Campaign Star

    Elmer Holland and his wife, Beatrice, on their 50th anniversary.

  • Bronze Campaign Star
  • Good Conduct Medal
  • American Theatre Ribbon
  • WWII Victory Ribbon

Once back home, Elmer started working in a coal mine in Kentucky and got married. The couple would have three children before moving to Indianapolis in 1960. He worked at Allison and General Motors. He was the pastor at Blaine Avenue Holiness Church, too. Today at his living center, he's the pastor of his community.

“We’re still glad to have him around," said Harold. "I joke with him about what we’re going to do on his 100th birthday. He says, 'I might not be here', nah, you’re doing really good.”

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