Father Francis L. Sampson risked his life to save lots of others in Normandy and was really helpful for the Medal of Honor.
By Invoice Warnock
Shellfire rocked the help station. A ceiling beam cracked, raining down plaster. One explosion obliterated a window, hurling stone, wooden, and glass shards into the room. Father Francis L. Sampson rushed sufferers underneath a mattress, fearing the constructing may collapse. He led everybody within the Lord’s Prayer whereas altering bandages and cleansing plaster mud from pallid faces. All of the whereas he stored blood plasma flowing. The dozen wounded males watched the chaplain with awe. He was their lodestar, a beacon in demise’s darkish shadow. His inner gyroscope spun true and degree, as if windfall had created him for this process.
Within the coming months, Father Sampson’s actions in Normandy would garner a Medal of Honor suggestion, a proposal supported by Supreme Allied Commander Common Dwight Eisenhower. However the valiant priest would by no means obtain America’s highest fight ornament.
That is the untold story behind the person and the medal.
The intricate path to the help station started in 1942 when Father Sampson answered a recruiting name for paratrooper chaplains. He later admitted his naiveté. “Frankly I didn’t know once I signed up for the airborne that chaplains can be anticipated to leap from an airplane in flight.” Worry of embarrassment stored him from reneging as soon as he understood the time period “airborne.”
The Military despatched him to the parachute faculty at Fort Benning, Georgia, the place his chaplaincy afforded him no lax remedy. At age 30, Francis Leon Sampson stood 5-10, weighed 185 kilos, and sported a flattop haircut. He excelled at athletics, however the faculty pummeled him right into a deflated heap. Many trainees washed out or landed in a hospital mattress, however he persevered even after a brush with demise when he descended into the Chattahoochee River on one leap. He graduated in Might 1943, unaware that his shut name within the river foreshadowed occasions to return.
Imbued with new confidence, the chaplain boarded a practice for Camp Mackall, North Carolina, the house of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment.
He reported to Colonel Howard R. Johnson, the regimental commander. The 40-year-old chief was an inexhaustible human dynamo who ignited sparks at each flip. He exhorted his males with fiery phrases, spurring them to surmount inconceivable odds and to shake the gates of Hell. The colonel additionally had a penchant for profanity, language the clergyman discovered offensive. He voiced dis
approval, and uneasiness developed between the 2 males.
The priest discovered immediate rapport together with his flock of Catholic para
troopers. His empathy, comedic expertise, and love for all individuals endeared him to the lads who dubbed him Father Sam.
The 501st fought mock battles for 2 months through the autumn in Tennessee. Whereas there, Father Sam acquired his captain’s bars. He additionally certified as a fight medic, having discovered to use a splint, infuse blood plasma, and carry out different emergency procedures.
Abroad motion started on January 18, 1944, when the regiment embarked for England, the place it joined the 101st Airborne Division. The regiment settled outdoors Newbury, and, as a safety measure, adopted the codename “Klondike.”
Quickly after arriving, the uneasiness between Johnson and Father Sam boiled into battle when the colonel instructed his troops to hold condoms whereas on depart in London or anyplace else that venereal illnesses and prostitutes proliferated. The rubbers crammed a fishbowl, and the troopers helped themselves. Father Sam expressed opposition, and Johnson fired again, “You care for their souls Chaplain, and I’ll maintain their asses!” The priest bristled.
“The morals in England are worse than you’ll be able to probably think about,” he defined in a letter residence. “I’m having a terrific wrestle with our commanding officer to guard our Catholic boys’ rights of conscience. He’s making an attempt to implement one thing opposite to our religion. My opposition might value me my job.”
The padre appealed to the division chaplain, an Episcopalian colonel.
A number of weeks later Father Sam once more wrote about Johnson. “I’ve gained the primary couple rounds in our little feud, and he positive glares at me.”
The fishbowl disappeared, and the chaplain stored his job.
Chilly, drizzling rain prevailed as preparations mounted for the Allied invasion of France. Apply jumps continued, and on one drop Father Sam landed in a lake, his second water touchdown.
On an evening maneuver, the chaplain fell asleep in a ditch. He awoke feeling one thing chilly urgent beneath his chin. “A snake!” he thought and slowly opened his eyes. It was a knife wielded by Johnson. “Chaplain,” he stated, “in fight you’d have been a lifeless duck by now.”
Yet one more travail unfolded when Father Sam fired his assistant, Personal James W. McDermott, who repeatedly shirked his duties. The wayward clerk retaliated and stole £85 (about $340) from the chaplain’s desk. He fled the scene, threw a pair drunken events, and betrothed himself to an English lady whereas his spouse was pregnant again residence. McDermott spent almost all the cash and ultimately landed within the regimental stockade.
A number of days after the larceny, the 101st carried out Train Eagle, an evening drop on Might 12, 1944, and a dry run for the division’s half within the invasion of Western Europe. On the best way down, Father Sam struck a tree trunk and bruised his ribs. The regiment incurred 150 casualties that night time with 90 % of them requiring hospitalization. The losses ended all follow jumps and rigorous coaching.
The bruised priest initiated a brand new assistant, Personal William A. France from Philadelphia. Born into an Episcopalian household, “Buck” France had just lately transformed to Catholicism. Father Sam had baptized him into the Roman Church a month earlier together with six different troopers.
The ultimate countdown to peril started on Might 28, when the regiment cut up its ranks between two airfields. Father Sam and his Protestant counterpart flew forwards and backwards between them. Mass attendance soared, as did penance, the padre’s boys confessing their 10,000 venial sins.
Invasion architects assembled 821 plane, excluding spares, to haul 13,348 American paratroopers into battle. Simply 13 jumpers have been chaplains.
Father Sam quartered in a tent at Merryfield airdrome, residence to the 441st Troop Service Group commanded by Lt. Col. Theodore G. Kershaw. Barbed wire and armed guards confined the paratroopers to the set up as soon as they knew their vacation spot—Normandy.
Rain and excessive seas delayed the operation 24 hours. On D-Day eve, Colonel Johnson addressed his Merryfield contingent. He brandished a Bowie knife above his head and swore to plunge it into the “foulest, black-hearted Nazi bastard in France.” He whipped the lads into savage spirit earlier than they saddled up with their gear and parachutes.
Father Sam’s accoutrements included a Purple Cross brassard and two canteens, one crammed with medical alcohol and the opposite with consecrated wine. He stowed spiritual gadgets in a musette bag. The gadgets included playing cards with the Latin texts for absolution and anointing the sick in addition to a chalice and small ciborium, the latter safeguarding consecrated wafers. He wrapped the objects in altar linens and his white vestments. He additionally carried a fuel masks, a dispatch case, a cumbersome medical bag, a blood plasma package, and a second musette bag with toiletry gadgets and additional underwear. Okay-ration bins bulged his pockets.
He shook palms with males as they walked to the plane and bid “God bless you,” to every. Aboard his aircraft, the troopers bowed their heads, their faces blackened with burnt cork, and Father Sam led them in prayer.
Plane barreled down the runway, their Pratt & Whitney engines pulling them into the sky. The planes circled and climbed within the fading twilight and assembled over southern England. The lead ship reached the shoreline at 12:31 am, the drop zone (DZ) lower than an hour away.
Laden with gear, the chaplain lumbered to his aircraft’s open passenger door. He gazed down on the English Channel, its whitecaps illuminated by the moon. His eyes wandered throughout a wide ranging vista—naval vessels, too many to rely, all steaming towards the invasion seashores.
Within the cabin, engulfed by engine roar, Father Sam studied the deadpan faces. “The lads have been usually quiet,” he recalled. “Some tried to sleep, others smoked steadily, and some tried to be nonchalant by buzzing some trendy songs.”
He questioned what number of would survive to see daylight once more.
Forward on the DZ, pathfinders have been on the bottom. These elite troopers encountered dogged enemy hearth as they struggled to arrange T-lights and Eureka radar to assist information the 441st. The Germans had recognized the world as a possible touchdown zone, they usually defended it.
Like everybody within the air, Father Sam knew nothing concerning the hassle on the bottom, however a larger drawback loomed forward within the sky. An unlimited cloud financial institution hung over the Normandy coast, an impediment piled excessive with hazard.
Nonetheless locked in formation, the pilots climbed to 1,500 ft, the altitude ordered for the shoreline crossing. The plane reached land close to Portbail, France, and plunged into the clouds, the DZ simply 10 minutes away.
Visibility dropped to nil in locations.
Nervousness gripped many pilots. They broke formation, hoping to keep away from midair collisions. Plane veered left and proper. Some dove, some climbed, and others held their course. Lt. Col. Kershaw bored straight forward by way of the grey soup. Father Sam’s pilot stayed with the colonel, they usually progressively nosed right down to 700 ft, the leap altitude.
German antiaircraft hearth shot into the clouds, albeit scattered and imprecise. The booms and flashes however set everybody on edge.
A pink warning mild out of the blue glowed by the door, indicating to Father Sam and his fellow passengers that solely 4 minutes remained to the DZ. He watched the jumpmaster, 1st Lt. Ted Fuller, pull himself to his ft and yell, “Prepare!” The lads adopted his instructions and hooked up their static-line fasteners to an anchor cable that ran overhead within the cabin. They checked their gear one last time.
German gunners spun a lethal net within the sky, zeroing in on the C-47 transport planes as they emerged from the clouds. Tracer rounds crawled excessive into the night time, portray lengthy, fiery strains that vanished because the rounds spent themselves and tumbled earthward.
Turbulent air rocked Father Sam’s plane, and bullets pierced its aluminum pores and skin, capturing up by way of the ground. One projectile hit Technician Fifth Grade Stanley E. Butkovich and penetrated his left thigh. Waylen Lamb, a medic, clambered to the wounded man, who insisted on leaping. Lieutenant Fuller consented and unhooked Butkovich from the anchor cable and moved him to a seated place within the door, his legs dangling overboard. Fuller reattached Butkovich to the cable.
Within the lead plane, Kershaw and his co-pilot scanned the bottom for T-lights signaling the place the place the paratroopers ought to obtain the inexperienced mild to leap. The aviators noticed solely flames leaping from a barn torched by the Germans to light up the invaders. Kershaw thought the DZ lay under, and he switched on the inexperienced mild. Father Sam’s pilot copied.
Fuller gave Butkovich a shove out the door. Gear bundles adopted him, after which his comrades in speedy succession.
Father Sam stepped into prop blast and plummeted till his parachute deployed, its camouflaged cover unfurling overhead. He marveled for a fleeting second on the deadly fireworks throughout. “It is going to all the time stay a thriller to me how any of us lived,” he later wrote. “I collapsed a part of my chute to return down quicker. From there on I positioned myself within the palms of my guardian angel.”
It appeared his angel drew the brief straw. Father Sam plunged right into a flooded drainage ditch. His heavy gear pulled him beneath the chilly, black water. Unable to seek out his ft, he fumbled for his knife and minimize away his medical bag, plasma package, toiletry bag, and non secular gadgets however did not free himself from a watery grave. He would in all probability have drowned, however his cover stayed open and a wind gust pulled him into shallow water.
He recovered for a second and shed his parachute harness. German bullets zipped over the swamp as he crawled again to the ditch and dove for his spiritual gadgets, particularly anxious to save lots of the ciborium and its sacred contents. After 5 or 6 makes an attempt, he latched onto the musette bag and pulled it to the floor.
He noticed one other man from his stick, his assistant Buck France, who had misplaced his rifle after almost drowning. Soaked to the pores and skin, the 2 scrambled to a hedgerow for canopy.
They seemed as much as see a C-47 heading their means, flames gushing from its left wing. The dying fowl approached low, its pilot preventing to regain management. The plane pitched right into a area and exploded in an orange fireball that billowed excessive into the sky. The 2 onlookers prayed for the lifeless crewmen now cooking within the funeral pyre. The pair additionally prayed for the souls aboard two different flaming plane that blazed throughout the distant sky like big bottle rockets.
Father Sam and his assistant quickly discovered two extra 501st troopers who crawled to their place. The 4 weighed their choices and moved out, hugging hedgerows whereas wending their means towards an space the place they hoped to satisfy pleasant faces.
They ran into six airborne warriors who identified a circuitous path to a rally level. The route crossed an enormous swamp. Again in 1942, the Germans had closed lock gates on the Douve River, and rainwater flooded the lowlands making a barrier to airborne assault.
Father Sam’s group picked its means throughout the marsh till receiving enemy hearth close to a farm owned by Théophile Fortin. The chaplain superior alone to a small home the place he discovered an assist station and its officer in cost, Captain Tildon S. McGee, the Protestant chaplain for the 506th Parachute Infantry. Father Sam backtracked and led his group to the home.
McGee, a Baptist theologian from Philadelphia, Mississippi, had landed at Angoville-au-Plain, barely lacking that city’s church steeple as he descended. The close to calamity and its irony dawned on him, maybe together with a narrowly prevented headline—“Chaplain Killed by Church.”
McGee had left Angoville and trekked throughout the swamp, serving to evacuate casualties to the Fortin home the place a dozen 506th medics gathered, in addition to one from the 501st. Father Sam and his group have been welcome additions.
Close to the help station, the third Battalion, 506th dug in and defended two picket bridges over the Douve River. Germans throughout the river chopped on the defenses with shells and bullets.
Father Sam witnessed a civilian tragedy when an enemy shell struck behind the home and killed the farmer’s spouse, Odette Fortin, and an eight-year-old woman, Georgette Revet, after they stepped outside to fetch water from a pump.
“As I knelt to anoint them,” he recalled, “the farmer threw himself on their our bodies and broke into agonizing sobs.” The priest positioned a hand on the grieving man’s shoulder. He instantly sprang up, his face and arms smeared with blood, and ran towards the Germans, yelling and shaking his fists in rage.
Inside the help station, a number of sufferers required care past that presently out there. Father Sam determined to find the 501st regimental help station and a surgeon. He conferred with McGee and struck out alone throughout the marsh, avoiding roads and enemy eyes. The swamp flora hid him as he skulked alongside via frigid water typically chest deep. He chanced upon a pleasant patrol that directed him towards excessive floor and the Klondike assist station in a hamlet named Basse Addeville.
He plodded upslope towards his vacation spot and towards a firefight, its tenor rising to a speedy crackle. The 501st males at Basse Addeville confronted German Military troops one hedgerow away. The enemy included overseas legionnaires, ex-Pink Military troopers from Soviet Georgia.
The chaplain reached pleasant forces and found GIs gathered round a current casualty, a towheaded child from Service Firm—Technician Fifth Grade Norman L. Dick. His personal hand grenade had detonated in a pocket. Anyone thought a bullet triggered the mishap, however, regardless of the trigger, the explosion turned his proper leg right into a bloody sluice. Father Sam helped carry Norman to the help station.
Main Francis E. Carrel, the regimental surgeon, labored contained in the medical facility, a one-story dwelling constructed in the course of the 18th century. The home seemed sturdy, its fortress-thick partitions constructed from stone and torchis, a standard constructing materials comprised of clay and straw. An inside wall divided the constructing into separate residences. Noémie Diorey lived within the one now full of American casualties. Her daughter Maria Lebreuilly owned the adjoining residence, the place the 2 ladies took refuge.
Noémie’s first husband, Maria’s father, had perished throughout World Conflict I. When the Germans invaded in 1940, Maria had two brothers-in-law who served as squaddies. One died in fight, and the opposite misplaced each legs. The 2 women knew conflict and its ache, however by no means earlier than had its horrors erupted at their doorstep.
Father Sam situated Main Carrel as he tended to sufferers within the cramped, cavelike facility. The physician listened to the chaplain’s report and despatched Captain Clarence N. Sorenson, the 2nd Battalion surgeon, to the 506th help station together with an enlisted man and provides.
Father Sam returned outside and located Main Richard J. Allen, the regimental operations officer and the chief at Basse Addeville. Allen advised Father Sam that Colonel Johnson held their unit’s preliminary goal, the Douve River locks at La Barquette. A lot of the Basse Addeville defenders had departed for the locks. Allen now led a 50-man rear guard. These troops would go away at dusk together with the chaplain, the medical employees, and the ambulatory sufferers. As for the lads unable to stroll, their destiny lay in German arms.
Again on the assist station, Carrel and Father Sam mentioned the motionless sufferers. “This can be a dangerous time to go away them,” the physician stated. “Neither aspect is taking many prisoners now, and the Germans will contemplate them a legal responsibility.”
Father Sam regarded abandonment as an unthinkable sin even when dictated by the army state of affairs, and he voiced his intent to remain. “I attempted to discourage him,” Carrel recounted, “however he insisted. He felt his obligation was with the lads.”
The physician felt freer to go away, however he doubted anybody on the assist station would survive, despite the fact that the padre downplayed the danger. The 2 males reviewed every affected person’s situation, together with Pfc. Thomas L. Hildebrand, who was sequestered subsequent door in Maria’s cider room.
Hildebrand jumped with Firm D, 501st and suffered a extreme concussion on touchdown, which triggered defective reminiscence, fixed headache, and emotional outbursts like a neuropsychiatric casualty. “Higher hold him away from the others,” Carrel stated.
The physician and chaplain additionally mentioned younger Norman Dick, and one other affected person overheard the doctor’s prognosis. “He advised the chaplain there was not a lot probability of this man recovering, however, if he did, he would lose his leg.”
Carrel summoned his sergeant and informed him to pick a medic to stay with Father Sam. The sergeant requested the medics to attract paper slips, one with the phrase “keep” written on it. Personal Everett L. Fisher recalled the lottery. “I used to be the primary to attract, and I picked the keep slip.”
The 22-year-old Fisher hailed from Little Valley, New York, the place he left highschool to work as a farmhand till drafted in September 1942. He joined the 326th Airborne Medical Firm the subsequent month. For the invasion, his unit assigned males to every parachute regiment, and Fisher jumped with the 501st. He met Father Sam for the primary time on the help station.
Noémie’s residence had two rooms related by an inside door. Every room additionally had an exterior door exiting onto the road. The bigger room functioned as a bed room and a dwelling space with a hearth. The smaller room served as a pantry with a ladder that led as much as a loft.
The ultimate withdrawal from Basse Addeville started on schedule. Main Allen led his rearguard, the medical group, and the ambulatory sufferers throughout the swamp towards La Barquette because the solar disappeared and a full moon appeared.
Father Sam now had more room within the assist station and moved all however three casualties into the massive room. There have been 14 sufferers. He positioned two males with injured legs subsequent to a door to observe Hildebrand. The chaplain usual a white flag from a mattress sheet and hung it outdoors.
He requested Fisher to scrounge for meals. The medic introduced again rations deserted within the yard. He additionally collected bottles of wine and gathered eggs from the pantry. An aged Frenchwoman, in all probability Noémie, introduced milk and butter. The lads possessed a squad range with two burners, they usually cooked eggs scrambled with crushed crackers, protein and carbohydrates for the sufferers.
The chaplain and medic cleaned wounds and sprinkled sulfa powder to stop an infection. They modified dressings and squeezed morphine into groaning sufferers. Father Sam administered blood plasma to maintain Norman Dick alive in addition to Corporal James F. Jacobson from Firm C, 501st, who lay on Noémie’s mattress.
The 20-year-old corporal, a Catholic child from Chicago, had a bicep torn by shrapnel and a bullet gap in his thorax that produced inner bleeding. Blood loss brought about his veins to break down, requiring quite a few makes an attempt by the chaplain earlier than he efficiently infused plasma.
Norman Dick lay on the ground in a nook, clutching a picket crucifix that Father Sam lifted from a wall. He acquired three plasma models and rallied sufficient to reminisce about his household because the chaplain sat by his aspect and listened.
Norman stated he grew up in Saint Clairesville, Ohio, the place his mother and father died in the course of the Nice Melancholy. He moved to Coalinga, California, after graduating from highschool and lived together with his sister and her husband. The previous Ohioan liked woodworking and located employment as a cabinetmaker till volunteering for the parachute infantry in September 1942. Three brothers additionally served in uniform, one having earned a Purple Coronary heart and a Silver Star as a B-24 Liberator bombardier on a mission over France.
By now most males within the constructing had fallen asleep. Father Sam urged Fisher to do the identical, and he dozed off. The chaplain returned to the white flag and stood silhouetted within the doorway waving the sheet, hoping to stop the enemy from attacking the help station. He did that each 15 minutes. Within the meantime, he tiptoed among the many sufferers, watching over them. He helped Norman, a religious Presbyterian, say his prayers.
The day ended with Basse Addeville unprotected and the Germans unaware.
The village lay silent beneath the celebs. Faraway artillery sometimes broke the hush, like rolling thunder, miles away. Father Sam continued alternating between the flag and the sufferers till he heard a disturbance.
“About 2 am Norman turned delirious,” the chaplain recalled, “I rested his head on my arm and commonly wiped perspiration from his brow. At intervals he would have a lucid second and would squeeze my hand.”
In a low voice, the chaplain requested anybody awake to hitch him in prayer for his or her comrade. Jacobsen prayed regardless of his personal accidents.
Norman Dick died about three:30 am. Father Sam rolled his physique in a parachute and laid him outdoors with Fisher’s assist.
Roosters crowed as daylight crept above the japanese treeline two hours later. Jacobson and the opposite wounded males remained alive, however the Germans had but to reach.
When Fisher awoke, he relieved Father Sam, a person virtually sleepwalking. He napped for 3 hours, his first shut-eye since England. The medic ready eggs and scorching chocolate for the chaplain after his relaxation, and he had simply sufficient time to wolf them down.
The casualties required care, and the 2 angels in olive-drab hustled to satisfy the unrelenting process. Fisher had a queasy feeling. “We’d heard many tales about what occurred to American paratroopers when captured,” he recalled.
The Germans lastly realized their opponents had deserted Basse Addeville. Enemy paratroopers from the sixth Parachute Regiment approached the help station at 10:30 am.
One enemy soldier darted previous a wood-frame window that missed the road. Furtive glances by means of the opening revealed a machine-gun crew planting its weapon close by. The strain reached a gut-twisting climax when the lads heard pounding on the pantry door and shouts in German. Father Sam grabbed the white flag and advised Fisher to stay inside.
The chaplain yelled, “All proper” and opened the door. An enemy paratrooper thrust a machine pistol into the clergyman’s midriff and shouted, “Hände hoch!”
Father Sam raised his arms.
The Germans yanked the priest outdoors the place he repeatedly pointed to a Christian cross on his collar and the Pink Cross brassard on his left arm. None among the many enemy paratroopers had ever seen an airborne chaplain. No such individual existed of their regiment, and the Luftwaffe as entire had no chaplains, having disbanded them years earlier.
Two younger Germans with dour, hostile faces prodded him down the street at gunpoint.
Three different German paratroopers kicked open the door to the massive room and ordered Fisher outdoors together with his arms raised. “I stepped into the doorway,” he recalled, “and a younger German caught a machine pistol in my abdomen. It clicked, and the boys on the ground turned their backs, anticipating me to get a stomach filled with lead.”
Fisher introduced down his left arm sufficient to point out his brassard to the enemy soldier, and he pulled away the machine pistol. Inside the help station, the Germans tried to interrogate their captives and fired rounds into the ceiling to frighten them. The Germans ransacked each rooms, looking for weapons and meals. They snatched all of the remaining eggs.
Enemy troopers additionally rousted Maria and Noémie. The ladies of their homespun clothes appeared innocent, and the troopers launched them after rummaging by means of Maria’s house.
The 2 Germans with Father Sam marched him a few quarter mile earlier than stopping.
“Certainly one of them pushed me towards a hedgerow,” he recalled, “and the 2 stepped again about 10 ft and pulled the bolts on their weapons.”
The blood sank from his face when he noticed the violence of their eyes. He tried to recite the Act of Contrition, however in nervous haste he stated the Grace earlier than Meals.
Photographs rang out.
The chaplain noticed a German noncommissioned officer operating down the street. He had simply fired into the air and was yelling at his comrades. The good-looking noncom spoke to Father Sam in damaged English. This German was a veteran campaigner, an “previous hare,” and he shoved one of many would-be killers when he noticed the priest’s credentials. The noncom snapped to consideration, his heels clicking like a pistol shot. He saluted and bent on the waist, making a slight Prussian bow. The noncom produced a Sacred Coronary heart medallion from underneath his uniform.
Father Sam breathed straightforward as his rescuer escorted him to an officer who summoned a fluent English speaker. The chaplain defined that he possessed no army info and requested to stay together with his wounded males. The officer consented. Again on the help station, Fisher heard the photographs and presumed the worst. He and the others believed a bloodbath now awaited them, however they guessed fallacious.
Their padre reappeared on the door with the noncom at his aspect. Father Sam seemed relieved, virtually cheerful. The noncom inspected the help station prime to backside, together with every man’s accidents. He promised to ship a physician. The wounded observed the decorum proven towards Father Sam, a hopeful signal.
The noncom departed as his comrades dug in at Basse Addeville.
Work within the assist station resumed for the chaplain, however he carried on alone. He requested Fisher to stick with Hildebrand. Father Sam feared the mentally unbalanced soldier may heed an animal urge to bolt free, overpowering his two injured guards, and that the Germans outdoors would shoot him.
The injured males hobbled again to the help station with assist from Father Sam. He positioned Sergeant Lowell E. Norwood and Corporal Elbert F. Yeager within the pantry since no flooring area remained within the giant room. Each males belonged to Firm B, 501st. Norwood grew up in Paris, Tennessee, the place he had a spouse and two younger boys. His older brother Ted was additionally a paratrooper. The Germans captured him in Italy the earlier yr and interned him at Stalag IIB.
Norwood, Yeager, and the opposite sufferers drew hope from Father Sam. As night time settled over the countryside, their survival appeared attainable, even possible.
That night time the 101st Airborne Division ready to recapture Basse Addeville and to grab close by Saint-Côme-du-Mont. The division had misplaced a lot of its personal artillery in the course of the D-Day drop and consequently acquired help from the 65th Armored Subject Artillery Battalion.
The 65th, codenamed “Citadel,” landed on Utah Seashore. Its battalion hearth course middle (or FDC) lay in a hamlet named Holdy. The unit fielded 18 M7 Clergymen, 105mm howitzers mounted on tank chassis. The weapons sat in three firing batteries outdoors the hamlet.
Lieutenant Colonel Edward A. Bailey commanded the battalion. The 1938 West Level graduate visited the 101st command submit on the Lecaudey farm in Hiesville, the place he labored with the paratroopers to develop an artillery plan for the approaching assault. They mapped out a rolling barrage that might sweep by means of orchards and pastures. Additionally they chosen eight targets, referred to as “concentrations,” that coated street junctions and enemy strongpoints. The employees on the Fort FDC plotted them on a firing chart and labeled every with a three-digit quantity. Focus 402 included the Klondike help station.
At midnight, the 65th started intermittent harassing hearth meant to disclaim the Germans relaxation and to scale back their fight effectiveness. The artillerymen had no ahead observer in place to regulate hearth on the concentrations, however pinpoint accuracy was pointless. Battle maps and firing tables offered ample knowledge for harassing hearth.
The primary detonation at Basse Addeville jolted everybody awake inside the help station. Extra rounds screamed in and exploded, falling nearer and nearer to the constructing. The explosions produced supersonic shock waves and sound past decibel measure.
The wounded clenched their tooth and waited for a direct hit. Maria and Noémie huddled subsequent door, each ladies terrified past phrases.
The artillerymen hammered away however quickly lifted their hearth and shifted it to a different focus. They returned to 402 a number of occasions that night time.
The chaplain shuttled between the wounded and repeatedly ventured out to examine on Fisher and Hildebrand. The concussion sufferer lay in a coma-like sleep, cocooned from actuality.
One affected person within the giant room, Personal John C. Marnye from Firm D, 501st, recalled the chaplain’s poise. “Father Sampson was simply as calm as if nothing was occurring.” Marnye noticed a person who had reached deep inside to some guarded nook and located grace, a person grateful to be the place most wanted, optimistic within the direst of circumstances.
Lower than three miles away, muzzle flashes from the three howitzer batteries attracted a minimum of one German plane. Two bombs landed close to the weapons however did not explode. The artillerymen ignored the plane and continued blasting away. At four:15 am, they stepped up their hearth to a gentle drumbeat.
Shells struck Basse Addeville with unprecedented fury. The help station had prevented a direct hit, however that modified when an explosion cut up the darkness with blinding mild and a booming crash. The seismic blast hurled the help station occupants into an unworldly miasma, a spot between life and dying the place time stood nonetheless.
Three hits in fast succession introduced down the pantry roof and partitions. Father Sam thought the massive room would additionally crumble, and he threw himself over three males. Miraculously no collapse adopted. The detonations left the chaplain’s ears ringing, however he someway heard a voice name his identify. It was Corporal Yeager.
The 23-year-old paratrooper from Iola, Texas, lay within the pantry doorway. Father Sam stumbled to him by means of a dusty haze as extra wreckage fell and buried Yeager to the waist. The chaplain cradled the corporal’s head in his lap. “Father, they acquired me,” he stated. The padre turned and stated, “Let’s all pray for this boy.” Yeager moaned a few occasions, and Father Sam felt the younger man’s coronary heart pump onerous for a minute earlier than it stopped.
There was one other man within the pantry. The chaplain climbed into the room and dug by means of the particles till he discovered Sergeant Norwood lifeless.
Amid the cataclysm, Father Sam observed that a shell burst had propelled a GI flashlight onto the road. The sunshine’s tiny bulb shone brilliant, and he feared that an artillery observer may see it. He leaped outdoors to modify off the sunshine as shells continued to blow up close by.
The bombardment flummoxed the German defenders, and Father Sam heard their wild shouts. He virtually collided with one who darted previous. As he bent to seize the sunshine, he noticed a wounded enemy soldier in a watery ditch. The person died because the chaplain tried to raise him.
Father Sam headed again indoors however recoiled upon seeing a German slumped towards the constructing with an assault rifle. The weapon posed no menace, its proprietor a walleyed cadaver.
The chaplain hustled into the massive room simply as a shell exploded close to the doorway and introduced down extra of the constructing. The blast injured a German outdoors who screamed for assist. Father Sam needed to help, however his sufferers beseeched him to remain put.
The artillerymen halted their hearth at four:40 am, however just for 5 minutes.
Once they resumed, their weapons delivered an enormous barrage in a box-shaped space dealing with the first Battalion, 401st Glider Infantry Regiment. Excessive-explosive shells tore uncooked holes within the floor and shot up fountains of earth. White phosphorus projectiles radiated hearth and noxious smoke. The help station lay outdoors the influence zone, however the constructing trembled. After 10 minutes, the shelling turned to a rolling barrage that superior 100 yards each 4 minutes.
Glider troops edged ahead behind the barrage as daylight returned to Normandy. The attacking drive additionally included two jeeps and trailers loaded with males and provides from the 501st, the lads tasked with reaching Johnson at La Barquette.
First Lieutenant Sumpter Blackmon led the jeep-borne drive. He and his troopers acquired enemy hearth, they usually responded with rifles, grenades, and two vehicle-mounted machine weapons. The change killed a jeep driver, Personal First Class John A. Houlihan. The lads knew nothing about Father Sam’s assist station, they usually thumped the constructing with rifle grenades.
Bullets additionally smacked the help station, and a brilliant purple tracer flew via a shattered window and ricocheted down from the ceiling. It handed via Father’s Sam pants, setting them on hearth, in addition to a wool rug. He shortly smothered the flames however sustained second-degree burns on his groin. The pores and skin bubbled and blistered, but he disregarded the ache and stored working after dressing the wound.
As German resistance wilted, Blackmon’s males rapidly searched every home besides the help station as a result of they acquired no hearth from that constructing. The lieutenant’s social gathering quickly motored on to La Barquette and delivered the provides.
The rolling barrage ended at 6 am, however small-arms hearth rattled on.
At La Barquette, Colonel Johnson instructed Blackmon to start evacuating casualties. The jeep groups loaded wounded males aboard the trailers and commenced making journeys to a surgical facility established by the 101st on the Château de Colombière in Hiesville.
The journey was 10 miles roundtrip, and on the final ferry mission Blackmon discovered concerning the wounded left with Father Sam at Basse Addeville.
The jeeps sped again there, and Blackmon headed for the one home ignored earlier. Solely its north and south ends stood. As he approached, the lieutenant clutched a hand grenade, not sure what to anticipate. Masonry and damaged rafters blocked the entrance door, so he circled to the rear.
Fisher noticed Blackmon and shouted, “People in right here!” Father Sam dashed outdoors, yelling to stop one other tragedy. The 2 officers met, and Blackmon discovered that 11 wounded paratroopers had survived. He additionally observed the chaplain’s damage. “His trousers have been in tatters, and there was one thing fallacious together with his leg,” Blackmon recalled. “I requested him if he was harm. He stated no, that I used to be to get these males out and deal with them.”
The lieutenant defined that wounded troopers already crammed his two trailers, however he and the jeeps would return. He surveyed the devastated assist station earlier than leaving Father Sam, who now had the squad range again in operation.
Sniper hearth erupted when the jeeps returned. One shot hit Blackmon’s driver, Pfc. Roy L. Spivey, who suffered a lacerated scalp that drenched his face in blood. His buddies sprayed bullets into foliage alongside the street and flushed out two shooters, younger parachute troopers in camouflaged smocks who promptly surrendered. The incident occurred close to the help station. Father Sam witnessed the aftermath. Each prisoners bubbled with contempt, their minds molded by a Nationwide Socialist schooling that twisted them into hate machines wholly dedicated to Adolf Hitler. They snickered at Spivey and hocked saliva on the bottom.
Their insolence enraged Blackmon’s males. His radio operator, Personal John T. Leitch, leveled a carbine on the Germans. Father Sam realized Leitch’s intent and ordered him to cease, however Leitch riddled the pair. The homicide of unarmed males, even Nazi ideologues, sickened the chaplain. He felt obliged to provoke judicial motion towards Leitch, however that would wait.
The time had come for the help station survivors to make their exodus. Father Sam and Fisher helped carry males to the trailers, probably the most significantly injured first.
Personal Floyd H. Martin from Firm C, 501st had wounds to his face and shoulder brought on by machine-pistol bullets. He was solely 16, having lied about his start date when he enlisted. The underage paratrooper marveled on the help station and its bashed-in roof. “Wanting on the home the subsequent day once we left it, I can’t work out how we ever got here out alive.”
Maria and Noémie additionally survived the constructing’s destruction.
The evacuation required three back-and-forth excursions to Hiesville. Father Sam stayed on the assist station till the ultimate pickup.
As he waited, 2nd Lt. Elder B. Collier from Firm D, 501st led a patrol into Basse Addeville to hunt for German holdouts. His males dislodged an enemy officer and his orderly from one home. Collier later recalled seeing the chaplain. “He was filthy and tired-looking, and he was very noticeably quiet.”
Father Sam departed within the final jeep.
On the Château de Colombière, a stone edifice that seemed like a medieval fortress, he discovered Captain Joseph A. Duehren, Catholic chaplain for the 401st Glider Infantry. Duehren recalled, “We helped the place we might, carrying the wounded males in, taking them to the working room, administering the Final Sacraments and administering to their materials needs.”
About an hour after Father Sam arrived, he answered an pressing name for Sort O blood, the common blood group. He rolled up his sleeve and gave two pints for a soldier with an stomach wound and a uncommon blood sort.
“At 0230 he despatched me to mattress,” Duehren recalled. The 501st chaplain carried on alone among the many wounded, catnapping when he might. He labored on the chateau till about midday on June 9, when a lieutenant from his regiment arrived with wounded males and drove him to Vierville the place Colonel Johnson assembled the regiment.
Two paratroopers dug Father Sam a foxhole and stuffed it with a parachute for bedding. As he flopped into the downy nest, a German plane dropped three bombs close by, however, as he later defined, he was too exhausted to care. “If the entire German Luftwaffe came to visit, it couldn’t have stored me from going to sleep. I slept 24 hours straight by means of.”
Fight ended for the 501st in mid-June, and its survivors returned to England by ship in July. The regiment acquired new males to exchange these misplaced.
First Lieutenant Richard Engels joined regimental headquarters and have become personnel officer, changing a captain who died of wounds. First Lieutenant Laurence S. Critchell Jr. turned his assistant. Amongst their duties, the 2 newcomers oversaw awards and decorations.
The duo despatched Bronze Star and Silver Star suggestions to division headquarters for Maj. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor’s approval. He possessed sole decision-making authority for these decorations. Colonel Johnson additionally had 10 males whom he nominated for the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), the nation’s second highest ornament for fight valor. Ultimate selections on these rested with greater headquarters in Europe.
Johnson additionally requested Engels and Critchell to organize a proposal for the Medal of Honor. Information about Father Sam’s deeds reverberated via the regiment and altered the colonel’s angle towards his Catholic chaplain. The padre exemplified selflessness and regarded his personal survival as incidental, traits that Johnson valued above all else. After Normandy, no man within the regiment impressed extra respect from Johnson.
Military Regulation 600-45 stipulated that a Medal of Honor suggestion include “incontestable proof” in written type, specifically eyewitness affidavits. Engels took sworn statements from help station survivors now in England. Critchell traveled to the 81st Basic Hospital in Cardiff, Wales, to interview Jacobson and acquire his assertion. The 2 lieutenants collected a dozen affidavits. The regimental draftsman, Personal Val B. Suarez, created a map, and Critchell wrote a three-page narrative detailing the complete story.
Johnson submitted the advice to Basic Taylor on August 7. He promptly endorsed it, however for a decrease ornament, the DSC.
Taylor himself lacked the authority to approve or disapprove a Medal of Honor. The Conflict Division reserved that prerogative for itself. The division commander might supply solely an opinion. The Conflict Division additionally required that the division commander ship the advice up the chain of command with out regard to his personal opinion. Taylor complied.
Father Sam knowledgeable his household, “I’ve been put in for the Congressional Medal of Honor,” he wrote. “I do know you may be as thrilled by the respect of my being really helpful as I used to be stunned.”
The advice reached First Military headquarters on August 18. Seven days later its Awards and Decorations Board reviewed the documentation, and the three colonels on the board agreed with Taylor and voted for the DSC.
On September 1, Father Sam mailed one other letter house. “The little matter I wrote about in my final letter didn’t undergo. It was modified to the Distinguished Service Cross, and I’m afraid that’s fairly above and past something I’ll have accomplished in fight.”
The chaplain misunderstood the method. No last determination had occurred.
Main Basic William B. Kean, chief of employees for First Military, studied the advice and scribbled a terse observe: “Ask the board to rethink for MH. Perhaps I’m mistaken however consider it’s robust sufficient.”
The board reconvened on September 2, and two colonels modified their votes to Medal of Honor. First Military commander, Lt. Gen. Courtney H. Hodges, then endorsed the advice, giving a nod for the Medal of Honor. His employees despatched the paperwork on to Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley at Twelfth Military Group headquarters.
Whereas the papers traveled from desk to desk, the 101st and Father Sam returned to fight. The padre made his fourth water touchdown when he descended right into a Dutch fort moat.
Colonel Johnson died on October eight from an stomach wound brought on by a shell fragment. The steely-eyed chieftain handed into legend. He had cast his paratroopers right into a deadly instrument of destruction, however the one man he deemed Medal of Honor worthy was a priest, a person with no weapon, no bravado, and no killer intuition.
The week after Johnson perished, Basic Bradley’s board advisable approval for the Medal of Honor. Bradley concurred, including his signature. In November Common Dwight D. Eisenhower lent his help and forwarded the advice throughout the Atlantic.
The documentation arrived on the Pentagon simply after Thanksgiving. The Warfare Division Decorations Board scrutinized the affidavits and Critchell’s narrative. On November 28, Board President, Maj. Gen. Emory S. Adams, introduced its vote—Medal of Honor.
The file folder with the paperwork landed on Military Chief of Employees Common George C. Marshall’s desk for last approval. The highest Military officer delegated a lot duty to subordinates, untangling himself from a jungle of selections and paperwork. He targeted on points impacting the warfare’s end result however made an exception relating to the medal. He reviewed every proposal for its award, affirming or rejecting the advice made by his Decorations Board. Solely the president or secretary of conflict might overrule his choice, they usually seldom intervened.
Though an Military regulation ruled the method, unwritten insurance policies performed a task. One coverage held that “non-combatants,” specifically chaplains and medical personnel, deserved no place amongst Medal of Honor recipients. Basic Marshall loosened the coverage because the warfare progressed and permitted 5 fight medics to obtain the medal, however he by no means wavered on chaplains.
He lowered Father Sam’s ornament to the Distinguished Service Cross.
A employees officer recorded the choice on December 2, 1944, with out rationalization.
The identical month, 4 different chaplains had their Medal of Honor suggestions lowered to the DSC. The 4 males, one Jewish, one Catholic, and two Protestants, had died collectively in 1943 after giving their life jackets to fellow passengers when their ship sank following a German submarine assault. The drowned clergymen and Father Sam have been the one U.S. Military chaplains nominated for the Medal of Honor throughout World Conflict II.
Again in Europe, Father Sam fell into German palms on December 20 whereas looking for casualties in the course of the Battle of the Bulge. The Military reported him lacking in motion. In February 1945, his household acquired a letter from him via the Worldwide Purple Cross. He was a prisoner at Stalag IIA. The Military contacted his father in Portland, Oregon, and organized for a DSC presentation ceremony. His father acquired the ornament on his son’s behalf.
Soviet troops seized Stalag IIA in late April. Father Sam journeyed residence and separated from the army however returned to lively obligation in 1946 as a consequence of a chaplain scarcity.
He made his ultimate fight bounce—and fifth water touchdown—with the 11th Airborne Division in the course of the Korean Conflict. The battle lasted three years, and no military chaplain acquired the Medal of Honor, the bar nonetheless set past their attain.
Father Sam made the army his profession and ascended to main common in 1967 and have become Chief of Chaplains, the very best submit for a U.S. Military chaplain. The overall occupied a Pentagon workplace and exerted affect on the prime.
It was no coincidence that in 1968 an Military chaplain acquired the Medal of Honor for rescuing 20 wounded troopers in Vietnam. The next yr, one other Military chaplain acquired the medal, a posthumous award to a paratrooper padre killed in Vietnam.
Father Sam retired from the military in 1971 and guided the USO for 2 years as its nationwide president. Afterward, he relocated to South Dakota and have become a parish priest within the Sioux Falls Diocese. He remained there till 1983, when he accepted a place on the College of Notre Dame as particular assistant to the president for ROTC affairs.
Few individuals knew about his Medal of Honor suggestion. He omitted it from his revealed memoir together with all point out of awards and decorations, however in 1986 he shared the story with Sgt. Maj. Francis X. Boyle Jr., chief ROTC teacher at Notre Dame. The story amazed the sergeant main, who wrote to Senator Dan Quayle and referred to as for a “congressional inquiry” to rectify what Boyle thought-about an injustice.
The senator investigated and acquired a courteous response from the Army Awards Department on the U.S. Military Army Personnel Middle. The responding officer defined that in 1952 Congress had terminated Medal of Honor awards for World Conflict II deeds, and the Military had no energy to waive that statutory restriction. The respondent additionally defined that Basic Marshall personally made the choice in Father Sam’s case, and it will be “presumptuous” of the Military to arbitrarily evaluate the overall’s “subjective judgment” after so a few years.
Boyle reluctantly dropped the matter. He died two years later at age 50.
The chaplain returned to Sioux Falls in 1987, having retired once more, although he sometimes substituted when an area priest was unwell or away from city.
Father Sam led a humble however pleased retirement, residing in a tiny wood-frame home as soon as owned by his maternal grandparents. He underwrote faculty tuition for native households who lacked his pension and investments, and he donated funds to construct a faculty chapel. The previous basic spent little on himself, his frugal habits tied to his religious convictions. Cigars have been his one indulgence. He smoked pipes as a younger man, later switched to cigarettes, and eventually settled on cigars, fats stogies in addition to slender cigarillos.
Most cancers ended his twilight years. He died in hospice care on January 28, 1996.
A number of months later, Congress made an exception to its statutory restriction and permitted the U.S. Military to award Medals of Honor to troopers denied the ornament on racial grounds throughout World Warfare II, reversing an unwritten coverage that created a bias towards them. Seventeen years later, the Military upgraded a DSC posthumously awarded to a Catholic chaplain in the course of the Korean Conflict, however that Medal of Honor concerned no prior denial.
The rationale behind Common Marshall’s disapproval stays unclear.
Marshall belonged to the Episcopal Church, however his wartime writings mirror esteem for Catholic chaplains, extra so than lots of their Protestant friends. Denominational prejudice performed no discernable position in his judgment relating to Father Sam.
The overall and the chaplain possessed comparable ethical qualities. Altruistic to the core, each males bridled their egos, scorned vainness, and declined benefit. Self-denial match them like snug footwear. Did the overall consider the Medal of Honor contradicted the solemn vows of males whose vocation ran opposite to fame and private reward?
No matter motivated the 1944 choice, it spared Father Sam all of the fanfare and hero worship that always accompany the medal. He most popular that laurels fell upon others and that solely the Almighty merited worship.
It was by no means the medal that mattered, solely the lives saved.
Invoice Warnock authored The Lifeless of Winter, a 2005 e-book chronicling present-day efforts to recuperate lacking U.S. troopers killed in the course of the Battle of the Bulge. He acquired a 2010 Distinguished Writing Award from the Military Historic Basis. Invoice is presently writing a historical past of the U.S. 741st Tank Battalion in World Struggle II. Whereas conducting analysis for that e-book, he chanced upon the Medal of Honor paperwork drawn up by Engels and Critchell. The yellowed and forgotten pages propelled a quest to uncover the story introduced right here.