THE DAY WE STORMED THE BEACHES OF NOR­MANY

The Covington News - - LOCAL - Pete Mecca is a Viet­nam vet­eran, colum­nist and free­lance writer. You can reach him at avet­er­ansstory@gmail.com or avet­er­ansstory.us.

The ap­proval to com­mence the lib­er­a­tion of Europe rested en­tirely on his shoul­ders. For a brief mo­ment in his­tory, one man con­trolled the leash re­strain­ing an inva - -

One of the frus­trated com­man­ders was the Al­lied Supreme Com­man­der Gen­eral Dwight D. Eisen­hower, not to men­tion his Head­quar­ters Staff of Ad­mi­rals, Air Mar­shals, and Army Gen­er­als. Al­ready dis­ap­pointed by the brief­ing at 4:15 a.m. on Sun­day, June 5, 1944, the pes­simistic lead­ers met again at 9:30 p.m. to hope­fully ob­tain a re­quired fa­vor­able weather re­port from the straight­laced Scot­tish me­te­o­rol­o­gist, Royal Air Force Group-Cap­tain J.M. Stagg. With thou­sands of lives at stake, Cap­tain Stagg ut­tered the now fa­mous state­ment, “.....rapid and un­ex­pected de­vel­op­ments have oc­curred over the North At­lantic.”

Mother Na­ture had opened a two-day win­dow of op­por­tu­nity. Gen­eral Eisen­hower made the de­ci­sion: “Okay, we’ll go.” Oper­a­tion Over­lord, the In­va­sion of Nor­mandy, was on. In the shad­owy predawn light, an English coast­guards­man on the Dorset cliffs watched in amaze­ment as thou­sands of war­ships dis­ap­peared over the hori­zon. Re­turn­ing home, he told his wife, “A lot of men are go­ing to die to­day. We should pray for them.”

A lot of men did die on June 6, 1944, on both sides of the con­flict, as did thou­sands of French cit­i­zens. The messy, bloody and un­com­pro­mis­ing mis­sion of ‘lib­er­a­tion’ would con­tinue to pil­fer lives and maim civil­ians and soldiers alike. Some hero­ics are com­mon knowl­edge, re­peated on the an­niver­sary of D-Day each year, and this year, the 70th An­niver­sary, will be no ex­cep­tion. But most of the hero­ics and sac­ri­fices will never be known nor re­ported. Yet among the suf­fer­ing and hor­rors of D-Day there were sto­ries of com­pas­sion and ev­i­dence of the good in man.

On the night of June 5 and into the early morn­ing hours of June 6, units of the 101st Air­borne Di­vi­sion parachuted into Drop Zone D, be­hind the ex­its to Utah Beach. One of their vi­tal ob­jec­tives was cut­ting the main Cher­bourg/Paris road near the tiny vil­lage of An­goville-au-Plain. As the para­troop­ers dug in, two medics of the 501st Reg­i­ment, Robert Wright and Kenneth Moore, set up an aid sta­tion in the vil­lage’s 12th century church.

Wright and Moore, with a Lieu­tenant named All­worth, searched the sur­round­ing fields for the wounded and dy­ing. Soon the church was more than an aid sta­tion, with Wright and Moore car­ing for se­ri­ously wounded soldiers on the thresh­old of death. Sta­bi­liz­ing the soldiers, Wright and Moore left the church to scour the area for more in­jured men, in­clud­ing Ger­man soldiers.

Amer­i­can and Ger­man soldiers were treated with equal com­pas­sion. A few soldiers died, but Wright and Moore con­tin­ued to res­cue and treat soldiers from both sides as the war raged around the tiny

But most of the hero­ics and sac­ri­fices will never be known nor re­ported. Yet among the suf­fer­ing and hor­rors of D-Day there were sto­ries of com­pas­sion and ev­i­dence of the man.” good in

church. The Amer­i­cans, fi­nally overwhelmed by sheer force of num­bers, re­treated from An­goville-au-Plain. Wright and Moore re­fused to leave, stay­ing in the church to care for the wounded and dy­ing.

As the town changed hands, Ger­man soldiers stormed the church and kicked the doors opened. In the en­su­ing si­lence, the Ger­mans low­ered their weapons upon see­ing Ger­man soldiers as well as Amer­i­can troops un­der the med­i­cal care of Wright and Moore. A Ger­man of­fi­cer ar­rived and asked if his wounded could also be treated. With­out hes­i­ta­tion or fear, Wright and Moore of­fered their as­sis­tance. The Ger­man of­fi­cer even called in his own doc­tor to as­sist the Amer­i­can medics. Leav­ing the tiny his­toric church, Ger­man soldiers posted a Red Cross flag on its doors to prop­erly iden­tify the emer­gency med­i­cal fa­cil­ity.

The bat­tle raged on. Bit­ter fight­ing con­tin­ued in and around An­goville-au-Plain for three days. The small vil­lage changed hands sev­eral times as Wright and Moore tire­lessly aided the in­jured com­bat­ants. A mor­tar round struck the church and re-wounded many of the wounded. The Amer­i­can medics never missed a beat.

Dy­ing soldiers were placed at the front of the church near the Al­ter; the aisles were crowded with in­jured, blood soaked the wooden pews, the in­jured and fa­tally wounded con­tin­ued to ar­rive. A se­ri­ously in­jured French child was brought into the church – Wright and Moore re­ceived credit for sav­ing the child’s life.

In the midst of the bat­tle, two armed Ger­man soldiers, hav­ing es­caped ini­tial cap­ture by the Amer­i­cans, de­scended from the church tower and sur­ren­dered to Wright and Moore. None of the Amer­i­can medics, nor any of the wounded soldiers be­ing treated, knew the Ger­mans were hid­ing in the church tower.

On June 8, a con­cen­trated at­tack by the 506th Reg­i­ment of the 101st Air­borne Di­vi­sion pushed the Ger­mans out of An­goville-au-Plain for the last time. The vil­lage was firmly in Al­lied con­trol.

Medics Wright and Moore had treated over 80 com­bat­ants and one child. Both medics are com­mem­o­rated in stained glass win­dows in the church and the cracked flag-stone floor in the cen­ter of the church, shat­tered by the mor­tar round, can still be seen. The blood­stained pews are still in use. A Me­mo­rial in the town square hon­ors the two Amer­i­can medics. The town square, in­ci­den­tally, is now named “Place Toc­coa” in honor of where the 101st Air­borne Di­vi­sion was trained in the United States.

Medics Robert Wright and Kenneth Moore re­ceived the Sil­ver Star for benev­o­lent ser­vice at An­goville-au-Plain. Wright later re­ceived a Pur­ple Heart for wounds re­ceived in Hol­land and earned two Pur­ple Hearts at Bas­togne.

sub­mit­ted photo /The Cov­ing­ton News

Coun­ter­clock­wise from top left: An­goville-au-Plain, present day; the me­mo­rial built for soldiers of D-Day; blood­stains on the pew in An­goville-au-Plain; stained glass built in honor of D-Day soldiers.

PETE MECCA COLUM­NIST

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.