The Nazi Hunter from Huntertown, Indiana

By Eric Olson

February 15, 2012 Updated Feb 15, 2012 at 12:13 PM EDT

HUNTERTOWN, Indiana (Indiana's NewsCenter)--The Battle of the Hurtgen Forest in the heart of Nazi Germany, the longest battle ever fought by the U.S. Army, and one of the last fought before Germany finally surrendered. And in the middle of all the blood and combat and frigid cold, a 24 year old army captain from Huntertown Indiana fought to stay alive.

“It was below zero,” recalls veteran Lew Atkinson. In the Hurtgen Forest there was no cover…just pine trees. Ever been that cold before? No, haven’t been that cold since either.”

At 91 years of age Lew Atkinson’s body is frail but his mind is strong. He remembers every minute of his war against the Nazi’s in Europe, crossing Utah beach in July 1944, the fierce fighting through France and Luxemburg…the humor that popped up now and then that helped keep him and his comrades alive.

“We took a bunch of prisoners one night about three o’clock in the morning and had ‘em lined up there,” Lew recalls, “and one guy said ‘can you send me to Kansas City that’s where my brother lives?”

Lew remembers other things, too. That’s his buddy Lou Bruck on the left, Lou would be killed just days later fighting in Normandy. 31 years after the war ended Lew Atkinson went back to Europe with his wife and kids, retraced the steps he once marched across France and Germany…visited the family in Luxemburg who gave the young soldier refuge from the cold, this is Lew’s photo of their daughter Trini…this is Trini in 1976. Lew made a scrapbook about his war service with photos, letters, news articles and commendations…all so his family might know the story of a young soldier who survived war that they might be born, and live free.

“I couldn’t tell you much about WW I,” says Lew’s son, Hal, “and it’s gonna be that way with my kids and the next kids maybe about World War II. So it’s good to have something you can put your fingers on and actually see.”

A war well fought, a life well lived, a hero well remembered in a book that is and will be, an American family treasure. This is Eric Olson reporting.

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