|Birth: ||Jun. 8, 1916|
San Bernardino County
|Death: ||May 23, 1995|
MY FIRST INTO NORMANDY ON D-9
Nurse, 816 Medical Air Evacuation Transport Squadron
Troop Carrier Group 438th – Ninth Army Air Force
Based at Greenham Commons, England
First Air Evacuation made from Normandy by this Group on D-6
Our Table of Organization called for each plane for Air Evacuation to be manned with a nurse and a Technical Sergeant who had been well trained to make these . Since these C-47 cargo planes carried military supplies to front lines we could not have the planes marked with a Red Cross, nor could we be armed as we carried injured soldiers to the rear for medical care. While cargo was hastily unloaded at forward positions the flight nurse and technician set up the litter straps for the patients.
When we boarded the plane all the bucket seats were folded against the walls, and the cargo completed filled all the inside space. The pilot met us at the door and said, "Welcome, you don't have to worry, we have this plane armed." Knowing it could not be armed I replied, laughing, "Of course, your pistol you are wearing!" He laughed, saying, "Go look on the wall in the blue room, we really are armed!" I found hanging on the wall an ancient rusted muzzle-loading shot gun! It made good decoration if nothing else! Since we had only the cases of cargo to sit upon the T/3 and I looked it all over: Cases of 50 caliber machine gun bun bullets, cases of 105 mm shells, ... all the rest of the space was filled with 5 gallon cans of gasoline. We had to sit on the cases. All the planes were lined up for formation take-off. In this flight we were to have fighter escort.
Taking off in formation the planes were behind scheduled time apparently as the cover of fighters and we had to be coordinated. We both watched through the windows when about 300 feet or so off the ground our plane on inside wing formation had to throttle-back to stay inside when the lead planes made a left turn. We were barely maintaining air speed. The plane would sometimes slip sideways toward the ground. I wondered if we might crash, … Then I was concerned about the cargo we were carrying. Remembering my few weeks detached duty at a B-24 base near Norwich and that some of those planes blew-up on take-off, or also collided in air after take-off … I asked the T/3, "Do you think we would blow-up if we made a crash landing?"
"I don't know!" He seemed as nervous I did about it. After some discussion of it we decided that even a bullet in the right place might blow this stuff and us up. Our parachutes, or the ‘Mae Wests,' wouldn't do us much good either. Soon our formation straightened up and flew right. We felt much safer with the fighter planes over us… The allied positions on the beach-heads we had heard were precarious.
Soon we were over the English Channel. Below us we could see all sorts of ships heading both ways. We were well aware that the Allied Forces had such a small toe-hold on shore. Enemy resistance was fierce!
Across the channel as we neared the shore we saw hundreds of wrecked ships that had never reached shore, as well as the thousands of wrecked equipment, wreckage … Unbelievable sights. All the wrecked, broken gliders that had crashed into posts set securely in any open field or into the thick impenetrable hedgerows…the open field where the mat landing strip was still, had the wrecked gliders with wings torn off, and other debris of war around it. The air was very dusty with all the activity. We could hear regular explosions of bombs and shelling as we landed. On the flight over I'd been so interested in all we were passing over that I'd not noticed my ears becoming stopped-up a bit. That did not interfere with my hearing all the shells falling, seemingly nearer! As soon as the door was opened I stepped outside and saw as Flight Surgeon acting as coordinator Captain Mills. He was covered and caked with dust, his face, his hair, and clothes. Even his eyebrows were thick with it. He said the patients had been lined up on the litters on the ground nearby and in front of us for a long time because of the delayed landing. The shells falling and exploding continued falling, with regularity.
Quickly all the cargo had been unloaded and we immediately started loading the plane with the litters. Captain Mills was overseeing it from the ground. The patients passed by so fast I had only a quick look at them. Their charts were tucked under an edge of their litters. About eight patients were loaded when I noticed that one who passed by did not look at all good. He seemed to be comatose and his color was very bad. Loading continued while I went forward to check his condition. His pulse was weak and thready; I checked his chart to what his injuries were. He had serious abdominal wounds that had been surgically treated. He was dying, could not be aroused. I decided to give him back for more care. Just that second Mills stuck his head in the doorway and yelled to us to, "Shut the doors and get the hell out of here, the shells are getting too close!" I immediately went to the door to give the patient back to him, but everyone, ambulances, all had disappeared completely . . . No one at all there! We had to go. No time to lose!
Soon as we were airborne I went up front to notify the radio operator that we had a dying patient on board. That I was afraid he could not last until our landing, wherever it might be. "If he dies during the flight I don't was to other soldiers on board to know it. I'd like them to have a doctor on board the second the doors are opened. In any event this patient needs very prompt attention!" He said he would take care of it. Back in the cabin I told the T/3 about it. The plane was only about half loaded. Asking him to mostly take care of the others while I was busy with this poor dying soldier. We had a German prisoner of war with a ‘sucking' chest wound, and I'd be mostly occupied with them on this short flight. All the other patients were really in quite good condition with their previous battleground care. The POW had a sucking chest wound. He was not in the best of condition, but he was nervous, worried and not at all sure how he would be treated. Since he did not understand English I worked a bit harder with him and tried to asure him he would be treated well. I wanted to let him know he would be all right and he would recover.
I constantly checked the dying patient, changed his position a bit. Not long after, he did die. I definitely did not want the others to know about it, and I was afraid the patients across from him would notice that he wasn't breathing. I turned him a bit more towards the wall, adjusting his pillows and head to make it look as though he were asleep. I immediately informed the T/3 and asked him to act as though all was normal. Our take-off from Normandy, near St.-Mere-Egliss, had been done with great haste. The last shell falling even closer … that explosion popped my ears open!
When we landed in England near a General Hospital the plane had barely stopped moving when the doors opened from the outside. First on board was a Flight Surgeon followed by litter-bearers … They all seemed to crowd onto the plane. I spoke, "I'm so glad to see you Doctor. This is the patient I wanted you to check;" I handed him the patient's chart which I'd closed. He then went to check the soldier's condition. He briefly checked the pulse, listened for a heartbeat, turned to the litter-bearers and said, "Take this patient to Ward 3." I spoke to him of the German POW and his ‘sucking' chest wound. After checking him briefly the doctor said, "Take this patient to Ward 2. Then take all the rest of them to Ward 1." It was a great relief to me that none of the patients knew that one of them had not ‘made it.'
In May 1988 at San Antonio, Texas I attend a World War II Flight Nurse Reunion. Also attending was former T/3, Elmer Cox, of our Squadron. He mentioned that he had a patient who died on a flight out of Normandy. I asked him to please write the details of it to me, as I'd thought I was the only one who'd lost a patient. When his account arrived, had the same date …. D-9. He had not remembered who the flight nurse was. I'm certain he was with me on that flight.
Summer of 1985 I attended a reunion of the 440th Troup Carrier Group to whom in October 1944 we were attached at A-50 Airfield near Orleans, France. During one of the social evenings in a large room each of the different group squadrons were in different areas of the large room swapping tales and renewing old friendships. I visited each group, talking with different ones, One of the former pilots was telling me about one of his first trips into Normandy to pick up patients. He spoke of the terrible wreckage along the shoreline as well as all the broken gliders in the immediate landing area. He said, "As soon as we landed I went outside the plane to get a better look … They had injured soldiers on litters lined up on the ground waiting for us. I wandered over to take a closer look at them, They were so young. One looked to me as though he was dying. He was lying there crying, and he kept calling for his mother still crying. I've always wondered about him and whatever happened to him … Whether or not he made it through the war."
When I recounted to him the above description of my first flight into Normandy that pilot said to me … "When you were telling me about that, chills were running up and down my spine! …. That was my plane! … When we landed in England my wheels had barely stopped moving when the door was opened by the litter bearers … ambulances, the doctors were all there! I never had it happen again that fast!" After all these years, this story is all now complete…
World War II
Jun 6 1916
May 23 1995
Arlington National Cemetery
Plot: Section 64
Maintained by: LynWilson51
Originally Created by: Anne Cady
Record added: Apr 02, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 67782871