Early in the morning on D-Day, allied paratroopers dropped all over the Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy in advance of the beach landings that would happen after sunrise. The U.S. 101st Airborne Division parachuted in behind Utah Beach with the mission of destroying a German strategic route near the tiny hamlet of Angoville-au-Plain, and the village became the site of an intense battle.
Amid the fighting, a pair of U.S. Army medics from the 501st regiment, Bob Wright and Ken Moore, set up an aid station in the hamlet’s 700-year-old church. Here, they treated both Allied and German soldiers. The pews were used as makeshift beds, and the bloodstains from wounded soldiers can be seen even today.
Wright and Moore braved the battlefield looking for wounded to bring back to the church and treat. The brave medics refused to allow weapons inside of the church, and soldiers on both sides heeded their request. At one time, a mortar shell fell through the roof of the church, shattering a floor tile, but it did not hit anyone and it did not explode. Perhaps the place was truly blessed. Two days after D-Day, two German soldiers emerged from hiding in the belfry and promptly surrendered.
Today, the church is little-known to many visitors to Utah Beach, though various D-Day tours include the site and its incredible story. Maintenance of the church and grounds is funded purely on donations and the sales of postcards available inside.
As thanks for the work of the paratroopers on that night, the church installed commemorative stained glass windows: one dedicated to the pair of medics, and one to the 101st Airborne Division parachutists. Robert Wright expressed his wish to be buried at the church, but bureaucratic red tape made this almost impossible. In the end, some of his ashes were smuggled into France to be buried in the churchyard. The unofficial headstone simply reads “R.E.W.”, Wright’s initials.
Know Before You Go
The church is about 5km north of the town of Carentan in Normandy. Many D-Day tours stop here.