As a First Lieutenant in the U. S. Army Medical Corp, my father was a medical officer in a secret division––the 93rd Medical Gas Treatment Battalion. The Allies, fearing that the Germans would resort to chemical warfare as they had during World War I, created five such battalions. On Friday, June 6, 1944, my father was stationed in Southampton, England, awaiting casualties from the Normandy Invasion.
That evening in Bad Neustadt, a village in Southern Germany, a French POW clandestinely tweaked the antenna of his contraband radio. A mix of crackle and news emanated as the broadcast of Radio London came through. Moments later, he jumped up and ran to the open window of his room, which was across the street from the baracks of the Eastern European slave workers' who toiled in a Siemens factory.
"The Allies landed in Normandy," he yelled. "They were not pushed back into the sea!"
My mother heard him and rushed from her barracks to the fence to ask for details. For the first time, she began to regard her enslavement as temporary.
The day after D-Day, my father's team stood ready to triage the first soldiers wounded on Utah Beach. Commanding officer Colonel Joseph W. Palmer acted as the port evacuation officer. He was charged with removing patients from the Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs) and distributing them to holding units and transit hospitals. As the LSTs arrived at the wharves and landing ramps, doctors boarded them to recheck the triage that LST doctors had done during the return crossing. Teams of company men carried the patients on stretchers and helped the walking wounded to ambulances parked near the ships. The pace was grueling; they removed as many as 175 stretcher cases in less than half an hour. Ambulances shuttled constantly between the docks and hospitals. One medical ambulance company carried 7,000 passengers and drove 240 kilometers. Medical officers, including my dad, worked around the clock, at times handling one casualty per minute throughout the day.
I've written about it all in HOW FAR.