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June 01, 1984 - Image 24

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-06-01

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24 Friday, June 1, 1984

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

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3575578

Recalling D-Day!

A Michigan physician looks back
to his diary for recollections of
June 6, 1944 the Allied invasion
of Europe via the beaches of
Normandy, France.

BY DR. MILTON J. STEINHARDT

Special to The Jewish News

D-Day was anticipated
and dreaded. As a medical
officer I was briefed, and
there was no doubt about
what was awaiting us on the
coast of France.
The evening prayer prior
to the invasion, held against
the motor noise, was drama-
tic and solemn. It was not
the words but the spirit that
was significant. The men
from all parts of the coun-
try, standing on top deck in
the open sea and sky, were
united by a common feeling
of impending danger and
the awareness that they
were the principal actors in
a momentous event of the
century.
As far as the eye could see
there were ships assembled
with all kinds of weaponry.
With such tremendous sup-
port we "cannot lose."
Some referred to the eve-
ning meal as the "last sup-
per." It was bitter humor, as
some would never witness
another sunset, and par-
ents, mothers, and wives
would mourn their loved
ones. Yet, nearly all of us,
including myself, were
eager to get it over with,
convinced that we would be
the lucky ones to tell the
tale.
D-Day was like a summer
picnic until our rhinoferry
got to about four miles from
Omaha Beach. With our
field glasses we could see
abandoned vehicles and in-
tense resistance on the be-
ach. One heartrending ex-
perience still vivid was the
sight of an LCP, holding
about 15 people, hitting a
mine close to shore. We saw
objects fly up in the air in a
huge spray of about 20 feet
and come down on the sur-
face of the rough water. By
the time another LCP came
to the rescue there was no
trace. It was too late.

Dr. Steinhardt is believed
to have been one of the first
medical doctors to land on
Omaha Beach on D-Day,
June 6, 1944. He
subsequently becam . e a
psychiatrist in the Detroit
area and is a past president'
of the Detroit Zionist
Federation.

as a result of a direct hit on
their landing craft.

The rest of the night we
spent perched on a small
elevation near the beach —
wet and chilled, with
small-arms fire whizzing
overhead. In the morning
we set up our medical in-
stallation — the very first
on the beach. I was the only
Michigan doctor with the
unit.

Dr. Milton Steinhardt

A short time later our
own rhinoferry, a huge flat
barge made up of non-
sinkable links, hit a mine
and a small section was torn
off. Two persons went over-
board. One was rescued. I
was splashed and shaken,
and I moved to another part
of the ferry.
From our vantage point
we could see the "ducks,"
amphibian vehicles, get off
the larger LSTs to hit the
coast. The rough seas tossed
them around like toys, and
there was doubt they would
ever make it to shore.

As we landed in hip-high
water, I was prepared to
drop my equipment and
swim if need be. When we
readied the beach a low-
flying enemy plane must
have penetrated our de-
fenses and strafed those on
shore. I sought safety in a
rather deep foxhole already
dug by the first' invasion
wave. After a few minutes, I
managed to get out of the
sand dugout only to be pur-
sued by what seemed to be
the same plane. I could
smell the powder. As I hug-
ged the ground, sweating it
out, I wondered, "Is my first
day in France to be my
last?"

Approaching the pre-
determined assembly area,
I was warned by an MP not
to proceed forward as the
Germans were still there. I
then managed to locate the
rest of the medics of our
Clearing Company D. It
may be noted that Company
B of the same First Division
(The Red One) lost 32 men

• •

+.;

From that time on, I
worked non-stop, allowing
little time for basic
physiologic needs. The
casualties were too acute
and numerous. The stoic
behavior of the wounded
was heroic and admirable.

D-Day was like a
summer picnic
until our
rhinoferry got to
about four miles
from Omaha
Beach.

The morale was excellent,
as we all felt a big hurdle
was behind us. When Gen-
eral Bradley visited our tent
we continued to treat the
wounded, ignoring for-
malities. His comment:
"Good work, boys."

Friday afternoon I
reached a state of exhaus-
tiori and was told to rest.
With the aid of a Sodium.
Amytal capsule, I got my
first night's sleep in more
than a week. I received the
Bronze Star for working
under fire during the D-Day
invasion.
I continued with the First
Division through the Battle
of France, the Battle of the
Bulge, the Hurtgen Forest,
the crossing of the Rhine,
the liberation of the Nor-
dhausen Concentration
Camp, until' the end of the
war. I received another
Bronze Star and a letter of
commendation.

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