The battalion medical section and company aid men jumped with the battalion at 0148 6 June 1944 in the area northeast of Carentan on the Cherbourg Peninsula. Due to heavy anti-aircraft and small arms fire, the battalion was unduly dispersed, as consequently was the medical section. The majority of the battalion landed in the general area bounded by St. Come-du-Mont and Angoville-au-Plain to the north and Carentan and Brevands to the south. Casualties from small arms fire were heavy, and the battalion was not able to assemble as planned because of the dispersion and heavy opposition.
The Battalion surgeon, CPT Stanley E. Morgan, of New Orleans, LA, a graduate of Louisiana State University School of Medicine, was captured shortly after his landing in the village of St. Come-du-Mont. He had the misfortune to sprain an ankle on the jump, thereby entitling him to the Purple Heart. After a short interrogation, he was conducted to a German "Krankenstube" situated in St. Come du Mont, where he courageously and fearlessly rendered first aid and definitive surgical care to the huge number of American and German casualties who were brought in. Here, with the assistance of a German medical officer and enlisted personnel, together with SGT Mainard D. Clifton of Ashland, OR, he worked constantly for three days in grave danger, both from revengeful Germans and from our own artillery fire. The town was under siege by our own troops and finally captured on the afternoon of June 8, 1944, releasing CPT Morgan and SGT Clifton.
CPT Morgan, by his heroic conduct and utter disregard of danger, was an inspiration to the many wounded American parachutists who were huddled together under his care. He managed, by both his diplomatic and forceful manner, to direct the evacuation of our seriously wounded by the Germans, securing the lion's share of the limited facilities available and at the same time, salvaging and keeping with him our less injured until the triumphal entry of our own troops. The wounded were all loud in the praise of him, and the Germans captured in later stages of the campaign remembered him vividly.
SGT Clifton, though himself wounded in the scalp, with a fragment of his helmet buried in his pericranium, was of great assistance throughout. Two more of our personnel were also prisoners at this time with CPT Morgan. They were SSG Myron W. Weiden, of Minneapolis, MI, who had a fractured metatarsal arch and SGT Tom E. Newell, of Silver Creek, WA, who was seriously wounded in the leg and foot. SGT Weiden was evacuated to the German hospital at St. Lo, and SGT Newell remained, and was evacuated back to England later.
CPT Morgan again proved his utter disregard of danger and devotion to duty when he volunteered, together with PVT Henry Ritter, of Milwaukee, WI, who spoke German fluently, to go with many of our casualties to St. Lo on a German ambulance. The roads at this time were under fire and bombardment by our own artillery and Air Force, making the trip an extremely hazardous one, especially in the environs of Carentan. This journey also gave CPT Morgan the distinction of being the first American in the invasion force to penetrate as far inland as St. Lo, which did not fall until several weeks later.
LT Alex Bobuck, of Brooklyn, NY, himself also injured, rendered valuable assistance to CPT Morgan during those three trying days. The Germans believed him to be an "Officer Sanitaire" and allowed him to take care of the various administrative matters which were always arising.
The local school teacher in St. Come-du-Mont immediately became enamored to SGT Clifton, who availed himself of this splendid opportunity, despite the inauspicious surroundings. He was thus able to gather valuable information concerning disposition of troops, geography, terrain, etc., as well as nutriment and liquid refreshments for himself. Later, when heavy-footed troops of occupation suspected her of sabotage, he rose in true rage, traveling several miles to her rescue, for which she and the people of France will always be grateful.
SSG Talfourd T. Wynne, of Columbia, CA, and CPL Thomas W. Call, of Columbus, OH, braved machine gun and mortar fire to reach the objective and set up an aid station in a French house. This served the battalion for the first three days. A medical officer of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, CPT Sorenson, guided their efforts here for two days, until the belated arrival of the assistant battalion surgeon, CPT Bernard J. Ryan. This distinguished officer, a graduate of Harvard University Medical School, and a resident of Chateaugay, NY, reach the objective only after a series of adventures probably unequalled by any other medical officer. Landing nearly five miles from his planned drop zone, CPT Ryan made his way, alone and unarmed, through a highly organized system of German machine gun positions and patrols, whose habit it was to spray liberally with machine gun and machine pistol fire any bit of cover thought to conceal an American. Moving at night, and hiding by day -- one day spent under an abandoned parachute less than seventy-five yards from a Russian-German bivouac area -- another twenty-four hours in the neck-deep, ice-cold water of one of the swamps in which the area north of Carentan abound, CPT Ryan displayed almost incredible physical stamina, courage, and devotion to duty. That he reached the objective at all marks him as a very exceptional man, and an excellent officer.
The medical personnel at the aid station included three enlisted men of the 326th Medical Company, whose work deserves special mention because of its high quality, and consistent selflessness.
Jump casualties who could not walk were forced to crawl to hiding places for their own protection as evacuation was impossible. Most of them laid on the ground until the third or fourth day, when our own troops finally secured the ground. Some were undoubtedly evacuated by the Germans, and a few who could hobble made their way to the objective.
By afternoon of the third day, 8 June 1944, about forty seriously wounded Americans and ten German wounded were present at the aid station. It was during this afternoon that the first evacuation arrived in the form of medical company jeeps. By evening, all wounded had been evacuated, and the battalion was relieved that night after three days of close combat.
Since the battalion had suffered the heaviest casualties and approximately fifty percent strength, it was drawn back to reserve to St. Come-du-Mont for three days, and thence to Housville for two days. On the night of 12 June 1944 it was alerted again, and attacked one mile northwest of Carentan on the morning of 13 June. Here again, it experienced heavy casualties from mortar and small arms fire, and was forced to withdraw in the fact of a vicious German counterattack. However, it held, and reinforcements arriving in the afternoon drove the Germans back. Most of the casualties this day occurred in a draw known to this battalion as "Bloody Gulch." The limited evacuation facilities were extremely taxed at this time, and men were carried back on such improvisations as ladders and blankets at the peak of the fight.
The battalion then went into bivouac east of Carentan; following this, it held a line about three miles west of Carentan until the later part of June. Casualties were light during this time, occurring chiefly from chance artillery and mortar shells. No further battle casualties were experienced after the battalion was withdrawn from the line west of Carentan and moved to the vicinity of Cherbourg.
SSG Wynne received the Bronze Star for his meritorious conduct in organizing the initial aid station, and supervising evacuation there under extreme hazards.
PFC Andrew V. Sosnak, of Pittsburgh, PA, received the Distinguished Service Cross for caring for and feeding wounded men in an exposed position for two days under direct fire from the enemy with utter disregard for his own safety.
Two of the medical enlisted men, PFC Herman C. Bonitz, of Mellon, WI., and PVT Ralph G. Daudt, of Payenne, ID, were killed on D-Day. CPL John W. Gibson, of Tucson, AZ., is reported as missing in action. (was POW at St. Lo at the time - BJR)
As regards supplies and equipment: none of the bundles were retrieved, the Germans having obtained at least one. The Third Battalion managed to obtain a medical bundle belong to the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. This sufficed for treatment during the first three days, being augmented by supplies carried on the medical enlisted men, and on line personnel. At least one life could have probably been saved had penicillin been available during the first three days, and the convalescence of several others might have been eased.
It was generally felt that the marine parachutist kits were not suited to our purposes, being too bulky and unwieldy.
The entire operation, viewed from a medical standpoint was satisfactory, and the medical personnel were thoroughly appreciated by the line.
Thanks to Robert R. Webb, Jr. [son of the late Robert R. Webb, Sr. (SSG, HQ, 3-506th PIR, 1942-1945 and author of Freedom Found)] for sending in this 3-506th PIR Normandy Medical History article.