WASHINGTON, D.C. (Tucson News Now) - With thousands wounded and dying on the beaches of Normandy, Waldo Werft jumped to action.
As a combat medic, he tried to avoid the grenades and gunfire while helping to save those who had been hit on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
"It was absolutely overwhelming, scary, frightening, and yet there was so much activity," Werft said. "I guess the adrenaline was flowing so much that in some ways I don't feel that I was that fearful."
Jumping from a troop-carrying boat into chest-deep sea water and loaded down with 50 pounds of equipment, Werft narrowly escaped death from the very start.
"I was about 75 yards from the beach when I had to leave the boat and jump into the water and go through barriers that were mined," he recalled, "and I touched one of them, but fortunately it did not go off. ... The beach was zeroed in by constant artillery fire and there were ships carrying in troops that were not too far from me that were actually blown up and didn't get to the beach."
Once he was on land, there was no time for fear; wounded soldiers were calling for help. As a medic, Werft was unarmed. Bullets whizzed by his head, but he pushed forward, trying to save as many lives as possible.
"My main job was to stop the bleeding," he said, 'and a lot of guys were bleeding a lot that day and arms and legs were blown off. Horrible things went on."
After a bloody day of combat, the carnage was overwhelming. Thousands of dead soldiers surrounded him.
"It was just a very, very tough day. In my regiment, we lost one out of three men in an eight-hour period. And when I say lost, I mean dead or wounded and missing, too."
Combat can stir up a whirlwind of conflicting emotions for veterans, but Werft said he never had a difficult time dealing with the horrors of war.
"I'm not an emotional guy," Werft said, "so I don't break down in tears. I got past that, you know, fortunately, but I have glimmers of memories that come and go, especially if I get to talking about it. But for years and years, I didn't talk about it or think about it."
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