A Wounded Soldier Once Put His Life at Risk Over a 70-Year-Old Photo
Before being evacuated to a hospital in the U.K., an injured Lt. James Tate refused to leave behind this picture of his wife, Ellen.
We walked slowly through the wet grass, our eyes searching for the enemy. I wondered why our artillery wasn’t throwing shells when we knew they were there that Normandy morn. Suddenly, machine-gun fire broke the quiet. We hit the ground, sheltered from the shots by a low stone wall a few feet ahead.
My radioman called the company commander to report as I summoned two soldiers to help me locate and knock out the machine gun. While I crouched on one knee to talk to my guys, I heard an explosion—and then I was on my back.
“Lieutenant! Lieutenant! You’ve been hit!” the radioman exclaimed.
Two medics strapped me to a stretcher and took me to an aid station. A doc slapped a bandage on my bloody knee; then the medics drove me to a nearby field hospital.
They carried me into a tent where dozens of wounded soldiers were lined up on the ground. I watched the nurses dispense shots before things went black. When I woke up, I was lying on a cot wearing nothing but my dog tags and a blanket.
“Wake up, Lieutenant!” a nurse shouted. “You’ve got to get on a plane—you’re flying to a hospital in England!”
I panicked. All my worldly possessions lay in a mountainous heap of equipment. I could replace everything except the photo of my new bride, Ellen, which I always carried with me.
“I’m not going until I get my wife’s picture,” I said. “It’s in the gas mask cover you took away from me.”
I knew the nurse could make me go, but instead she said, “OK, I’ll see if I can find it,” then ran out to search through the piles. Time stood still until finally she came running breathlessly back into our tent.
“I’ve got it!” she shouted, waving the picture in her upraised hand.
How she found it I’ll never know, but I’m glad she did. That photograph comforted me through tough times. Now—69 years later—it sits on my bedside table.