ANGOVILLE-AU-PLAIN, France — It was June 1944. World War II raged across many countries in Europe, and France was no exception. Tens of thousands of men and women put their lives on the line for their countries, and many made the ultimate sacrifice.
However, less than an hour’s drive away from the site of the largest seaborne invasion in history, two men made a stance to ensure that both ally and enemy alike wouldn’t have to make that sacrifice.
In a small church in Angoville-au-Plain, Kenneth Moore and Robert Wright, both medics with the 101st Airborne Division, provided medical care to 80 Allied and German troops and one child in June 1944.
Just outside of the church, with its still blood-stained pews showing the remnants of combat long passed, stands a memorial adorned with an American flag and a French flag dedicated to these two men, where U.S., German and French service members, veterans and civilians gathered June 4 to pay their respects.
“It was honoring and humbling to be among the veterans of the greatest generation and be a part of a ceremony here, where some of them fought,” said Col. Al Boyer, commander of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. “Even when we are forced to fight, we still have to have a human side. We have to protect civilian lives and treat the enemy with fairness when we can. I think what these two gentlemen did back in 1944 is still very present in our military today. I believe we have the same characteristics and compassion in today’s Army as we did in 1944, and I think put in the same situation, our Soldiers would do the same thing today.”
After setting up the medical station in the church, Moore and Wright searched the battlefield to find injured Soldiers. When a German officer arrived at the church and asked the medics to provide aid to German soldiers as well, Moore and Wright agreed. The only stipulation they gave before providing medical care was that weapons be left outside of the church so as not to compromise its status as a noncombatant facility.
“It was profound to be outside the church where (this) actually happened, where they dropped in, set up an aid station and saved lives opposed to what you usually see about people taking lives and capturing places,” said Cpl. Connor Burgal, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Divison. “It was also really good to see the Germans here. They’re here recognizing the heroes of our past, from both sides, because they saved their guys’ lives as well as our own. As long as we can honor each other’s past, we can build toward the future.”
As the ceremony went on, representatives from the U.S., France and Germany laid wreaths and saluted the memorial as a show of respect and gratitude for what Moore and Wright not only did for the lives they saved but also for future generations to look back upon.
“For those of us who have been in combat, we understand that there is sacrifice and valor in war,” Boyer said. “It’s a human endeavor of death. For these two medics to do what they did in the fight here in 1944, to save both American and German lives, it shows the human side of combat. It shows the humanity that can exist even in the horrors of combat.”