Honoring D-Day

by The University of Michigan Press on June 5, 2009

MacGregor_authorphoto UMP author Mildred MacGregor's recent appearance at an event at the Yankee Air Museum in Belleville for World War II survivors reminded us that the anniversary of D-Day is once again upon us on June 6th. Some recent movies have done an amazing job of depicting the actual assault on Omaha Beach, but Mildred's account of what happened afterward, in the medical tents and along the roads behind that front line, is a shock to the system.

It's easy to think of war and the work that military doctors and nurses do as clinical and sterile. So much of what we think of now when we contemplate war are weapons of mass destruction — bombs fired with a button push from hundreds of miles away, drones launched (as in the military commercials) from vessels at sea, clean hospitals for the wounded, high-tech equipment traveling with the soldiers.

But Mildred's account brings the reality of war as she saw it in World War II home: they worked in the mud, with whatever materials they had handy, and had to make tough decisions quickly about who could receive care immediately and who couldn't. People were tired, they never really got clean, there were bugs in their bedding and terrible meals, and success was a soldier fixed up well enough to send to a "real" hospital at a town down the road.

The reality of war at the front lines likely hasn't changed much in 70 years, and it's good that we have the anniversaries of events like D-Day, and still a few first-hand accounts like Mildred's, to remind us.

Read more about Mildred MacGregor's book World War II Front Line Nurse here

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