Karl Owen Holliday was born
in a farm house near Promise City, in rural Wayne County, Iowa on December 18,
1918. Known as "Bud" to his family, somewhere along the line in the
Army, he picked up the name of "Hap."
Having attended a one room school house until the 8th grade, he graduated from High School at Promise City, Iowa. During his youth, Karl lived on and worked the farm with his parents and siblings. The farm had been deeded to a Holliday by the United States Government in 1857. The Holliday family still owns this farm. After graduation from High School he attended Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. He graduated with a degree in Commerce (now called Business Administration) in 1941, and was drafted into the Army following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. While at Drake, he was a member of Alpha Tau Omega social fraternity. He also was an athlete having played both football and basketball.
Karl took his basic training
at Ft. Bragg, N.C. and was eventually assigned to the Field Artillery at Ft.
Sill, Oklahoma. It was at Ft. Sill where he successfully completed Officers
Candidate School and received his commission. At Ft. Sill he met and married
and on September 1, 1943 his son Bob was born. Eventually he became HQ-battery
commander of the 561st
Field Artillery Battalion. As the Battery Commander of Headquarters Battery,
his job with the Battalion was to find housing for and to feed the men. He was
in charge of the Battalion's Fire Direction Center, and also in charge of the
Battalion's communication network. He also had the duty to make sure the Battery
was secure from the enemy.
The 561st Field Artillery Battalion was organized in 1943 at Camp Joseph T. Robinson near Little Rock, Arkansas. He was one of the original officers forming the Battalion. The 561st Field Artillery Battalion was an Artillery Battalion consisting of five Batteries. Three of these Batteries were firing Batteries, with each firing Battery having four Guns. The Guns were 155 mm, known as "long toms." The barrel was 19 feet long. Each Gun weighed 9,595 lbs., and each Gun was pulled by a Prime Mover (a 6X6 truck weighing 43,570 lbs.).
An original "long Tom"
The projectile fired by these
guns weighed 95 lbs. The muzzle velocity was 2,800 feet per second. The range
was approximately 13 miles. The 561st was known as a "Bastard Battalion"
in that it was not assigned to any particular division or unit. It was a Battalion
which was built right into the system, meaning that it could pick up and move
to provide artillery fire support to a division whose own artillery might not
have had enough fire power to get the job done. The Battalion left Camp Robinson
late in 1943, eventually sailing for Europe in January of 1944. The 561st landed
at Utah Beach on June 29, 1944. From that point on the men of the 561st were
continually involved in combat until the War ended on May 8, 1945. They were
involved in five major campaigns, including the battles for Normandy, and Brest
Captain Karl Holliday died on April 13, 1945 near Klötz, Germany. He was a member of an "advance party" comprised of about 15 American vehicles. The Colonel in charge of the "advance party" decided to bypass the American Infantry and to take the group further than was ordered. As the American vehicles approached a hill, German troops hiding on both sides of the road ambushed them with machine-gun and rifle fire. My Dad, and the other three men (T5 Szakacs, 1Sgt Andrew Mac Donald and a third man) from his jeep jumped into a shallow ditch. My Dad and his First Sergeant Andrew Mac Donald both carried Thompson Submachine Guns. Both of them stood up and started firing at the enemy. Both were hit by fire from a German Burp Gun and killed. Some of the Americans at the rear of the column were able to get away. Those that were not
killed were taken prisoner.
His son Bob: I have many artifacts from the 561st Field Artillery Battalion, as well as from my Dad. However, perhaps the most prized possession I own is a letter he wrote to me on my first birthday, September 1, 1944. Among the things he said was: "I've been so terrible lonely my son. I've been away for a long time. We've had a job to do so that little boys can grow up in a free country. The job is almost finished."
Grave of Cpt. Karl O. Holliday
A special word of gratitude for sharing information is going out to :
Mr. Bob Holliday, son of Cpt. Karl O. Holliday
Mr. Robert Duijkers, webmaster of the website Field of Stories, where the story originally was published