The Men Who Saved Lives on D-Day

The church where two medics set up their makeshift hospital. Photography: John McCutcheon.

Treating soldiers equally from both sides for 72 hours straight, Moore and Wright saved the lives of eighty soldiers and a young French girl.

Lying there on a pew was my RTO.  Wounded but hopefully not as serious as I had thought.   He lifted his head and offered a weak smile.   “I’m all right, Lieutenant.   Saving this shirt though.   The bullet went right through my shirt, me, and out the other side.   I knew this fat would come in handy.   I’m lucky as hell though.   Another inch and it’d for sure have hit something I need.”

“Yep, you lie there and get some strength back.  The medic told me you were one lucky son-of-a-bitch.   We’re winning.   It’s hard.  These Germans are fighters.  But we’re pushing them, pushed them off that hell hole cliff and they’re falling back.  Not without a fight.  It’s a fight for every inch.  But those we captured out of that bunker right after you got hit are losing.   They know it.  They got defeat written all over their faces.  I guess I’m surprised to see that German soldier lying in the pew across the aisle.  They’re treating him just like they’re treating everyone else.   And he’s not the only German in here getting some help.  We’re still pushing east.   Got to run them off the bridge up there and secure a crossroad.  I gotta go.   Maybe I’ll see you up the road somewhere.”

“Thanks, Lieutenant.  Go get’em.”

As I stepped into the aisle, I looked down at the German soldier.  His face was crunched up in pain.  One side of his face, head, and shoulder were wrapped up in bandages.   But he stared up at me.   I wondered if he thought I’d kill him here or if I had been the one who had shot him.   I breathed humph.   There felt like there was a sinking wave coming from him.   As if he knew that inspite of this moment, this loss, this hurt, there’d be a lot more coming.   I nodded ‘Yes.’   I recognized his thoughts.   They were black, but somewhere in the clamor of war he was ready for the end.   Whatever kind of end it would be, his eyes told me he was ready.

I reached for my rifle when I got out the door.   Dear God, the irony.   I’m trying to kill them and they’re trying to save them.   I wound my way through the little cemetery and out past the low wall. I shook my head and kept on walking.   I still had a long way to go.

Jenny McCutcheon

NOTE: Across the street from the church at Angoville-au-Plain, France, stands a monument honoring two WWII medics.

On D-Day, June 6, 1944, U.S. soldiers fiercely battled Germans just a few miles inland from Point du Hoc.  Kenneth Moore and Robert Wright set up a make-shift hospital inside the church at Angoville-au-Plain, just several hundred meters away from intense fighting.

They treated both German soldiers and American soldiers.  When soldiers from either side tried to enter the church, they were told they could not enter with weaponry.  They must lay their guns and ammunition outside in the churchyard before they could enter.  Oddly enough, both sides acquiesced.

Treating soldiers equally from both sides for 72 hours straight, Moore and Wright saved the lives of eighty soldiers and a young French girl.

Inside the church some of the pews still have bloodstains from that day.

Another irony is that this 12th century church is dedicated to two martyrs who were also doctors.

Inside the church are two new windows that honor both Moore and Wright and the paratroopers.

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