70 years ago Army nurse Ruth Carmody from Lancaster, disembarking from the hospital ship Naushon was the first woman to land on bloody Omaha Beach on D-Day. She was the first to leave the water ambulance that carried the first nurses onto the beach and into a maelstrom of bullets and shrapnel to care for the injured and dying scattered all about. The battle encompassed everything.Shrapnel bounced off their helmets. It was hell on earth. Endless wounded awaited them, and those they were treating required all their attention. Asked if she was frightened she replied that she was not; “We were far too busy I guess,” she said, “The boys had had no first aid or field dressings when we got them that first day, and their patience and courage was something that made you forget yourself. Our only fear was that if we got it, the doctors would be handicapped and slowed down in their work.” Ruth remembered that the first wounded soldier taken off the beach was a German.
The British ship Naushon (hospital ship 49) was a converted American ferryboat with a capacity of 500 patients that had an American staff of doctors and nurses. It deployed medical teams to the beach and relayed wounded soldiers to Britain, returning again and again for more. It made 12 such trips and was under fire for 4 days. There were about 2000 American casualties on Omaha Beach. In all, 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on D-Day. Allied casualties on June 6, 1944 were at least 12,000 with 4,414 killed. After D-Day, Ruth worked on hospital trains moving the wounded inland from the coastal areas of Great Britain. By war’s end, she wore three battle stars for Normandy, Cherbourg and Belgium, and the Rhineland.
After the war Ruth came home for 30 days to visit her parents, Thomas and Elizabeth, and then she re-enlisted for three years and went to the Philippines. She was there when her father and mother died within a week of each other in March 1947. She started the long trip home but did not arrive until several hours after her mother’s funeral. Ruth Carmody died in December 1979 in Palo Alto, California. Her uniform is on display at the Cunningham Museum.