Exactly 70 years ago, over 160,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy to fight Nazi Germany. While they suffered heavy losses, the invasion was a success. Nurses and doctors alike provided excellent medical care for the wounded, preserving soldiers’ lives and returning them to their families. Several of these nurses belonged to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The following excerpts come from the book “Latter-day Saint Nurses at War: A Story of Caring and Sacrifice,” by Lynn Callister.
Erma Lousie Hirschi Gantenein:
Born and raised in Montpelier, Idaho, Gentenein graduated from LDS Hospital in 1942. One year later, she joined the Army Nurse Corps as a second lieutenant. She reported to Blandford, England in May, 1944.
“June 6, 1944 was D-Day; that evening, wounded soldiers were admitted by ambulances. I was assigned to the postoperative ward. My duties were to clean wounds, change dressings, send patients to shower, and then check them for further wounds. That means seventy-two hours of straight duty that night and the next couple of days until we were exhausted. We worked 12-hour shifts steady from that time on until toward the end of the war.”
Emma Bailey Gunnell:
Gunnell was in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps from 1943 to 1963. She graduated from the LDS Hospital in 1925. She reported to Europe in 1943 for duty. Little is known of her involvement in the invasion of France, but according to Callister, Gunnell was serving in England at the time and had the opportunity to treat the wounded from the beaches.
Olive Eloise Crouse Kauffroth:
Kauffroth was studying at the LDS Hospital School in Salt Lake City when D-Day occurred. After the invasion, she and other nurses traveled by bus to Bushnell Army Hospital near Brigham City, to help treat the arriving soldiers.
“On June 20, 1944, the first casualties from the Battle of Normandy began to arrive at Bushnell…there were literally hundreds of new patients within a few days. In this era, this was a near miraculous movement of wounded; they went from the foreign battlefield to a treatment hospital in the United States in ten days or so. To get them home so quickly meant better treatment of their wounds and more lives saved. I witnessed bravery during that time that I simply have not experienced before.”
Alexander M. Morris:
Starting out his medical career by posing as a patient for lectures at the Red Cross, Morris learned to use bandages, clean wounds and other valuable information. He was present for many major events in the war like the Battle of the Bulge. On D-Day, he was wading offshore aboard a ship.
“We didn’t get to Normandy Beach until the next day. My unit went in on the most northerly beach…There were the Germans, Canadians, and Americans. My unit was between them. It was very scary. Not a lot of people were killed in my unit. One or two were killed, and several were injured. I was looking after patients with another fellow. He said, ‘Look, Sandy.’ (That was my nickname.) Something had come through the tent and just took his finger off right in front of him…We hoped the others would protect us. We took care of the wounded on the beach. It was a pretty terrible experience. I can’t describe it because it was just splashes of water around me.
We revere and recognize all of the men and women who served to protect our nation’s liberty at great cost during the invasion of Normandy.