The Church at Angoville

(another re-post D-Day tribute…
May we always remember that the success at the invasion of Normandy,
and the eventual ending of WWII in Europe and later in the Pacific,
was not so much a matter of great men doing certain things great nor of making
great decisions but rather it was the matter of ordinary men and women doing
ordinary things that would become,
in the end, great things that continue to affect us today—
and we are the better for it and are a free people to this day because of those ordinary folks!)

“All my life I made it a matter of principle to tend all soldiers
equally whatever their uniforms could be. I could not say to the Germans:
“You sit there and if you are bleeding to death. I don’t care”

Army Medic Robert Wright


(Église Saint-Côme-et-Saint-Damien d’Angoville-au-Plain..
the humble church at Angonville / Julie Cook / 2018)

Despite it being September 22 it was an unusually cold and blustery day…
or so it seemed for our little group of four from both Georgia and Florida.
However, this was Northern France, just inward from the North Atlantic coast.

The rain came in spurts…sometimes blowing sideways, sometimes merely misting.
The temperature was in the low 50’s but the howling 35 mph gusts made it seem much colder.

Somber weather for a somber day.

Our driver turned the van we were calling home for the day around a sharp corner along
a quiet narrow street as we came to a stop on a gravel drive just aside a large
ancient oak.

We exited the van, with umbrellas in hand, huddling together, as a small group of 5—
the four from Georgia and Florida and one from Holland who now made
Normandy, France his home as we readied ourselves for something that we all
sensed was going to be so much greater than ourselves.

The guide’s name was Mike.
Mike Van Den Dobbelsteen with Bayeux Shuttle Service.
Mike is a Dutchman who has a nearly perfect British accent…
but of course, this particular day was his 12th wedding anniversary…
his wife hails from England which helped to explain his heavy British accent.

His enthusiasm and depth of knowledge regarding history…in particular this history
was immense.

It was still early in our day’s adventure,
although having just come from the German Cemetary in Normandy,
we now found ourselves standing outside the doors of an extremely humble
little stone church.

A church that would be easily overlooked by passerbys.
A church that harkened back to a different time.
A church that was named for two martyrs who had actually been medical doctors.
An odd coincidence given the role this church played during a day that changed
our world’s history.

The beginning of this tiny church dates back to the 11th century, to 1088 to be exact…
but it was what happened in the middle of the 20th century, 9 centuries following the
inception of this church, that actually puts this church on the map of modern history.

As we stood gathered under the large tree shielding us from the cold pelting rain,
my eyes immediately gravitated to the dark granite cross-like marker standing stoically
on the grounds of this seemingly humble French church.

Toccoa.

My uncle and aunt had made Toccoa, Georgia their home for nearly 50 years.
It was in that small northeast Georgia town in which my cousins had spent their
childhood growing up…
Was there some sort of a connection between this tiny town in northwestern France and that
of the North Georgia town bearing that stone cross’s inscription?

Yes.

Yes, there was indeed a connection.

In the early 1940s, Toccoa, Georgia found itself home to the World War II
“Screaming Eagles” paratrooper corps.
E Company to be exact.
E Company was based at Camp Toccoa, a rustic training base located in
northeast Georgia that operated from 1942 through 1945.

It was that same E Company which trained in Toccoa, Georgia that would find itself
falling from the sky on June 6, 1944, into and around the tiny French Village of
Angonville-Au-Plain. A far cry from the north Georgia skies where they had practiced
for this very moment.

The French Village Angoville-au-Plain lies between St-Côme-du-Mont and Vierville,
at the D 913 in Normandy. It is a small village with at its center a small church.
The village was part of DZ (drop zone) D in June the 6th 1944.
Drop zone D was the most southern drop zone of the 1st and 2nd Battalion,
501st PIR (Klondikes) of the 101st Airborne Division.
The first 48 hours after the jump heavy clashes found a place between American
paratroopers and German Fallschirmjäger, which are rather elite German airborne infantry.

By Guido Wilmes
Translation Thijs Groot Kormelink

Mike offered us a briefing regarding the Nazis who had hunkered down in and
around this tiny village as well as the allied airdrop of paratroopers who had
floated out of the sky behind enemy lines…

This was to be the first line of a hoped-for offensive.

“Serg. Jim Cox was fighting at Angoville with 52 Paratroopers.
The shelling by mortars and 88 mm guns were so violent that they decided to rejoin
the command post of Bob Sink.

The area of the church at Angoville changed hands several times.
When the Germans arrived in the village they saw the Red Cross flag at the door of the church.
Noticing that German casualties [that] were lying on the pews together with the paratroopers
[so] they left.
The church protected by the Red Cross remained a heaven [haven] of peace
in the middle of a battle.

(excerpt from a brochure provided by the city of Angoville-Au-Plain/
brackets are my corrections)

The impromptu medical clinic was manned by two American airmen, members of the Toccoa
Screaming Eagles, who had only a month’s worth of medical training between them.
75 badly wounded men, both American and German, were under the care of these two haphazard
medics—
Medic Robert Wright and Private Kenneth Moore.

“Robert Wright and I, said private Kenneth Moore, a stretcher bearer,
were the only once to look after the casualties in the church of Angoville.
In the evening we had got 75 of them.
Our own folk had come to tell us that they could not stay any longer.
So we were left alone with the wounded soldiers.
A German officer soon arrived.
He asked me if I could tend the Germans as well.
We accepted.
During the night the churchyard was the scene of a battle.
Two of our casualties died.
But among those I could tend, none lost their lives.
I tended all sorts of wounds, some were skin-deep but others were more serious
abdominal cases.”

The blood stains, stains that soaked deep into the wooden pews,
remain clearly visible all these 74 years later.

It is said that the two medics would move the more critically wounded to the front of
the church in order to be near the altar of as they wanted these men to
find a sense of peace should this be their last night on earth.

At one point two German soldiers, who had been hiding in the loft of the church, came down a
side set of stairs holding arms high in the air as they attempted to surrender
to these two bewildered American medics.
They told the German soldiers that there was no time for surrender…they needed them to go
out and fetch some fresh water as they needed their help tending to the wounded men.
The German soldiers willingly obliged.

As I type my recollection of this emotional visit with its surreal story,
I feel the warm tears filling my eyes.

There are so many links to a wide array of sites (some I’ve listed below) that can tell
the story of Angoville with greater detail than I can.
Those who are much more knowledgeable than I…

I wish I could somehow convey the tremendous emotions…emotions from humility to gratitude
that now fill me as I try to share and convey this individual tale…an individual story of
duty and humanity that is but one out of thousands of tales during this particular time of madness.

It makes me feel very very small…and given our current days and time…
I think we might all benefit from feeling small.

The fact that two men who fell woefully short in medical training saved all but two
of the men who were entrusted to their care…men from both sides of battle,
all the while behind enemy lines is short of miraculous.

As miraculous was the fact that a mortar came crashing down through the roof of this tiny church’s
ceiling landing in the middle of and sticking with a thud smack dab in the center of
the ancient slate floor…

A mortar that did not explode.

Had it exploded, as it should have, the church would have been leveled and all the men killed…
leaving the village of Angoville as just another forgotten causality of war.

Some say it was the saints Côme and Damien who watched over this motley crew of wounded
soldiers and hapless caregivers.

“What allowed that medic to hold for 72 hours without food and rest?
Wright later explained…”The simple concern of helping other people.
When you do something that is worth doing you don’t think of your own life.”

In 1999 Robert Wright made a pilgrimage back to this tiny church.
He noted that “the church at Angoville will never be on the list of the important
churches to be visited in Europe. Yet however small the building is,
it does not prevent God understanding where hearts and prayer are.
They were many in this place.”

Robert Wright passed away at the age of 89.
His wish was to be buried in the cemetery of the same small church where he
had worked alongside Kenneth Moore to save the lives of 80 men.

His grave is simple and yet speaks volumes in its simplicity.

Today there are only 53 people who remain living in Angoville-Au-Plain.
The local mayor asks those who visit to please remember the importance of this
special place.
I will be sending them a donation…the euros I brought home along with a US monetary donation.

I want to do so because places like Angoville are too important for us to simply allow them to
succumb to the fickleness of time…
because time has an odd way of making us forget what once was while we busy ourselves
so as to not see what will be but rather we allow ourselves to wallow in the current moment
which only hopes to swallow us whole.

There are two stain-glass windows which were installed not long ago which commemorate
the importance of this church.

</a

This will be the first of several tales that I’ll be sharing regarding the big retirement
adventure trip which focuses on the real reason for the trip…that being the visit to
Normandy, France, and the D-Day Memorials…

https://www.rockdalenewtoncitizen.com/news/local/a-veteran-s-story-the-little-church-that-could/article_47f87fc0-5330-554b-8326-4b8cb975a3d9.html

501st Aid Station in the church of Angoville-au-Plain

https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2018/august/28/toccoa-georgia

The Church at Angoville

“All my life I made it a matter of principle to tend all soldiers
equally whatever their uniforms could be. I could not say to the Germans:
“You sit there and if you are bleeding to death. I don’t care”

Army Medic Robert Wright


(Église Saint-Côme-et-Saint-Damien d’Angoville-au-Plain..
the humble church at Angonville / Julie Cook / 2018)

Despite it being September 22 it was an unusually cold and blustery day…
or so it seemed for our little group of four from both Georgia and Florida.
However, this was Northern France, just inward from the North Atlantic coast.

The rain came in spurts…sometimes blowing sideways, sometimes merely misting.
The temperature was in the low 50’s but the howling 35 mph gusts made it seem much colder.

Somber weather for a somber day.

Our driver turned the van we were calling home for the day around a sharp corner along
a quiet narrow street as we came to a stop on a gravel drive just aside a large
ancient oak.

We exited the van, with umbrellas in hand, huddling together, as a small group of 5—
the four from Georgia and Florida and one from Holland who now made
Normandy, France his home as we readied ourselves for something that we all
sensed was going to be so much greater than ourselves.

The guide’s name was Mike.
Mike Van Den Dobbelsteen with Bayeux Shuttle Service.
Mike is a Dutchman who has a nearly perfect British accent…
but of course, this particular day was his 12th wedding anniversary…
his wife hails from England which helped to explain his heavy British accent.

His enthusiasm and depth of knowledge regarding history…in particular this history
was immense.

It was still early in our day’s adventure,
although having just come from the German Cemetary in Normandy,
we now found ourselves standing outside the doors of an extremely humble
little stone church.

A church that would be easily overlooked by passerbys.
A church that harkened back to a different time.
A church that was named for two martyrs who had actually been medical doctors.
An odd coincidence given the role this church played during a day that changed
our world’s history.

The beginning of this tiny church dates back to the 11th century, to 1088 to be exact…
but it was what happened in the middle of the 20th century, 9 centuries following the
inception of this church, that actually puts this church on the map of modern history.

As we stood gathered under the large tree shielding us from the cold pelting rain,
my eyes immediately gravitated to the dark granite cross-like marker standing stoically
on the grounds of this seemingly humble French church.

Toccoa.

My uncle and aunt had made Toccoa, Georgia their home for nearly 50 years.
It was in that small northeast Georgia town in which my cousins had spent their
childhood growing up…
Was there some sort of a connection between this tiny town in northwestern France and that
of the North Georgia town bearing that stone cross’s inscription?

Yes.

Yes, there was indeed a connection.

In the early 1940’s, Toccoa, Georgia found itself home to the World War II
“Screaming Eagles” paratrooper corps.
E Company to be exact.
E Company was based at Camp Toccoa, a rustic training base located in
northeast Georgia that operated from 1942 through 1945.

It was that same E Company which trained in Toccoa, Georgia that would find itself
falling from the sky on June 6, 1944, into and around the tiny French Village of
Angonville-Au-Plain. A far cry from the north Georgia skies where they had practiced
for this very moment.

The French Village Angoville-au-Plain lies between St-Côme-du-Mont and Vierville,
at the D 913 in Normandy. It is a small village with at its center a small church.
The village was part of DZ (drop zone) D in June the 6th 1944.
Drop zone D was the most southern drop zone of the 1st and 2nd Battalion,
501st PIR (Klondikes) of the 101st Airborne Division.
The first 48 hours after the jump heavy clashes found a place between American
paratroopers and German Fallschirmjäger, which are rather elite German airborne infantry.

By Guido Wilmes
Translation Thijs Groot Kormelink

Mike offered us a briefing regarding the Nazis who had hunkered down in and
around this tiny village as well as the allied airdrop of paratroopers who had
floated out of the sky behind enemy lines…

This was to be the first line of a hoped-for offensive.

“Serg. Jim Cox was fighting at Angoville with 52 Paratroopers.
The shelling by mortars and 88 mm guns were so violent that they decided to rejoin
the command post of Bob Sink.

The area of the church at Angoville changed hands several times.
When the Germans arrived in the village they saw the Red Cross flag at the door of the church.
Noticing that German casualties [that] were lying on the pews together with the paratroopers
[so] they left.
The church protected by the Red Cross remained a heaven [haven] of peace
in the middle of a battle.

(excerpt from a brochure provided by the city of Angoville-Au-Plain/
brackets are my corrections)

The impromptu medical clinic was manned by two American airmen, members of the Toccoa
Screaming Eagles, who had only a month’s worth of medical training between them.
75 badly wounded men, both American and German, were under the care of these two haphazard
medics—
Medic Robert Wright and Private Kenneth Moore.

“Robert Wright and I, said private Kenneth Moore, a stretcher bearer,
were the only once to look after the casualties in the church of Angoville.
In the evening we had got 75 of them.
Our own folk had come to tell us that they could not stay any longer.
So we were left alone with the wounded soldiers.
A German officer soon arrived.
He asked me if I could tend the Germans as well.
We accepted.
During the night the churchyard was the scene of a battle.
Two of our casualties died.
But among those I could tend, none lost their lives.
I tended all sorts of wounds, some were skin-deep but others were more serious
abdominal cases.”

The blood stains, stains that soaked deep into the wooden pews,
remain clearly visible all these 74 years later.

It is said that the two medics would move the more critically wounded to the front of
the church in order to be near the altar of as they wanted these men to
find a sense of peace should this be their last night on earth.

At one point two German soldiers, who had been hiding in the loft of the church, came down a
side set of stairs holding arms high in the air as they attempted to surrender
to these two bewildered American medics.
They told the German soldiers that there was no time for surrender…they needed them to go
out and fetch some fresh water as they needed their help tending to the wounded men.
The German soldiers willingly obliged.

As I type my recollection of this emotional visit with its surreal story,
I feel the warm tears filling my eyes.

There are so many links to a wide array of sites (some I’ve listed below) that can tell
the story of Angoville with greater detail than I can.
Those who are much more knowledgeable than I…

I wish I could somehow convey the tremendous emotions…emotions from humility to gratitude
that now fill me as I try to share and convey this individual tale…an individual story of duty and
humanity that is but one out of thousands of tales during this particular time of madness.

It makes me feel very very small…and given our current days and time…
I think we might all benefit from feeling small.

The fact that two men who fell woefully short in medical training saved all but two
of the men who were entrusted to their care…men from both sides of battle,
all the while behind enemy lines, is short of miraculous.

As miraculous was the fact that a mortar came crashing down through the roof of this tiny church’s
ceiling landing in the middle of and sticking with a thud smack dab in the center of
the anceint slate floor…

A mortar that did not explode.

Had it exploded, as it should have, the church would have been leveled and all the men killed…
leaving the village of Angoville as just another forgotten causality of war.

Some say it was the saints Côme and Damien who watched over this motley crew of wounded
soldiers and hapless caregivers.

“What allowed that medic to hold for 72 hours without food and rest?
Wright later explained…”The simple concern of helping other people.
When you do something that is worth doing you don’t think of your own life.”

In 1999 Robert Wright made a pilgrimage back to this tiny church.
He noted that “the church at Angoville will never be on the list of the important
churches to be visited in Europe. Yet however small the building is,
it does not prevent God understanding where hearts and prayer are.
They were many in this place.”

Robert Wright passed away at the age of 89.
His wish was to be buried in the cemetery of the same small church where he
had worked alongside Kenneth Moore to save the lives of 80 men.

His grave is simple and yet speaks voulumes in its simplicity.

Today there are only 53 people who remain living in Angoville-Au-Plain.
The local mayor asks those who visit to please remember the importance of this
special place.
I will be sending them a donation…the euros I brought home along with a US monetary donation.

I want to do so because places like Angoville are too important for us to simply allow them to
succumb to the fickleness of time…
because time has an odd way of making us forget what once was while we busy ourselves
so as to not see what will be but rather we allow ourselves to wallow in the current moment
which only hopes to swallow us whole.

There are two stain-glass windows which were installed not long ago which commemorate
the importance of this church.

</a

This will be the first of several tales that I’ll be sharing regarding the big retirement
adventure trip which focuses on the real reason for the trip…that being the visit to
Normandy, France, and the D-Day Memorials…

https://www.rockdalenewtoncitizen.com/news/local/a-veteran-s-story-the-little-church-that-could/article_47f87fc0-5330-554b-8326-4b8cb975a3d9.html

http://klondikes.nl/wordpress/501st-aid-station-in-the-church-of-angoville-au-plain/

https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2018/august/28/toccoa-georgia

Out of the darkness, has come a great Light

“…the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”

Matthew 4:16

DSCN0735
(entrence to the 9/11 memorial in Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

The sound is almost overwhelming as the sickening thud of felled trees, one right after another, causes the entire earth to shake beneath my feet. The maddening buzz of saws fills the air as progress marches sadly forward on the property across the street. Once beautiful woods are now giving way to a muddy stubby mess as blue sky abruptly punctuates what was once a shadowy lush green canopy, all the while as worrisome thoughts of what is soon to be hangs heavy in the air.

Disconcerted and rattled with each crashing tree, my thoughts thankfully drift away, thousands of miles away across an expansive ocean, to a very different forest of trees.

Perched high on a hill overlooking the serene harbor of Kinsale, a colorful fishing town found on the southeastern coast of County Cork, Ireland, is an unassuming park. This park isn’t the sort of destination topping the list of must see places for those visiting Kinsale. Far from the shops, restaurants and fishing piers that make Kinsale a favorite stopping point for those visiting Ireland, rests a serene respite I was fortunate to visit.

We had spent the day driving around much of County Cork. We had visited the seaport town of Cobh which is steeped in history. It was in the city of Cobh which was most often the last piece of Ireland that many an Irish immigrant savored before setting sail for America during the infamous Irish potato famine. It is also in Cobh that the few remaining survivors, as well as the recovered bodies from the ill fated Lusitania, the passenger ship that was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1915, were received following the sinking of the ship. Cobh is also the town in which the Titanic set sail on its tragic maiden voyage.

DSCN0716
(a memorial to the victims of the Lusitania rests in the city center of Cobh, County Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Having spent the day stepping in and out of history as we enjoyed the idyllic coastal fishing villages around Ireland’s south easterly coast, we were ready to head on back to our hotel in Kinsale, to dinner and to calling it one more day rich in sights and wonders. But our driver and friend Paul had one more stop this day that he knew we needed to see and experience–this stop was to be much more current and personal in our lives as Americans then the sad exodus of immigrants or the tragic losses at sea.

Kathleen Cait Murphy was a local girl from Kinsale who spent forty years of her life living in New York working as a nurse. It was from her time working in New York that she both admired and befriended many a New York firefighter.

DSCN0746
(remembrance to Kathleen Cait Murphy/ Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Kathleen was a personal friend of firefighter chaplain Father Mychal Judge, who along with 343 fellow firefighters, lost his life on that fateful 11th day of September 2001.

Before her death in 2011, Kathleen envisioned a memorial to not only her friend Father Judge but to all the firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice that ill-fated beautiful blue sky September day in 2001.

DSCN0752
(a small view of Kathleen’s memorial park / Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland /Julie Cook/ 2015)

Kathleen, with the help of family and friends, planted 343 trees, one for each fallen firefighter. The trees have now grown creating a forest of gratitude and love.
Each tree has a small marker with the name of a firefighter, his fire house and rank as well as an individual American Flag.

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I stood in silence overwhelmed, as tears flowed freely down my cheeks, amazed and humbled by the image of the 343 American flags gently waving in the Irish breeze underneath a tiny forest of beautiful trees.

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So often, as a traveler, I am on guard as I know that Americans are not alway looked upon favorably by others. Even our own Government has us feeling almost ashamed as to who we are as a Nation. Yet here on “foreign soil” as I stood awestruck, I was a tiny spectator of a poignant tribute to the very Country I call home as well as a tribute to a portion of her very brave and selfless sons and daughters who made the ultimate sacrifice. I imagine those who visit Normandy feel very much the same, albeit on a grander scale than this, but humbling none the less.

It is because of such a tribute and memorial that we are allowed to turn our hearts…as we are gently reminded that we mustn’t hold on to the anger and hate, the rage and righteous indignation which so often fills our minds and hearts as we recall such a fateful day. Rather it must be to the hope and to the light cast from the sacred bond we share as human beings—It is because of these very humanistic qualities which make us more alike than different–those shared emotions of both joy and sorrow which bind us, unconditionally in love and to the shared respect we have for one another as human beings.

No, we will never forget that tragic September day which remains still very fresh in our minds and hearts, yet it is to the selflessness and compassion of Kathleen Cait Murphy that we may recall such sadness with a ray of hope, the bond of kindred spirits and a wellspring of gratitude that others share not only in our grief but in our hope as well…
Thank you Paul…

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The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
Isaiah 9:2