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Normandy’s Little Victims

By Kevin Hymel

War spared no one. As modern armies clashed in France’s Normandy countryside, French civilians found themselves in the crossfire or on the receiving end of bombs and heavy weapons. American medics, and sometimes just frontline soldiers, took time from their official duties to check, bandage, and cure whoever they could. Many suffered from maladies related to living in the elements to escape aerial artillery bombardment.

A truly Allied medical team tends to a French baby. The doctor is an American, the nurse in the center is a former Russian surgeon who was captured by the Germans in Leningrad, and the nurse on the right is a Swiss member of the French Army.
A truly Allied medical team tends to a French baby. The doctor is an American, the nurse in the center is a former Russian surgeon who was captured by the Germans in Leningrad, and the nurse on the right is a Swiss member of the French Army.

The Ninth U.S. Air Force set up a civilian dispensary for locals who had been without medical care for more than four years. The occupying German forces had refused to treat civilians or allow doctors into Normandy.

A private treats a small French boy’s hand while other soldiers watch.
A private treats a small French boy’s hand while other soldiers watch.

Of particular interest were children, truly innocent victims of war. The sight of a child in pain stopped GIs in their tracks, and the liberation of France suddenly became a personal mission. To the children, American soldiers were heroes and saviors. They would never forget the men and women who saved them. The feeling was mutual.

American medics treat a girl while her worried mother kneels by her side.
American medics treat a girl while her worried mother kneels by her side.

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