On the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
Excerpted from “Those Who Serve – Martha’s Vineyard and WWII;” interviews and editing by Linsey Lee (2006, Martha’s Vineyard Museum). Fred “Ted” Morgan is a former longtime Edgartown selectman.
I’ll always remember coming home on leave and seeing Pete Vincent at the Edgartown Drugstore. “Ted,” he said, “you’re not going to make it.” That stayed with me and I had to push myself. I couldn’t think of not doing it. I was absolutely determined that, if it killed me, I was going to prove Pete Vincent wrong.
Some of the Germans respected the Geneva Conventions, and some didn’t. You never knew. You couldn’t rely on it. In Normandy we had medics killed taking care of the wounded and by the same token you’d run into a situation like I experienced where the Germans drove up in a tank and – it was amazing!
Charlie Lieberth, who was a Headquarters Company soldier in my unit, was very badly wounded in Normandy. He was probably struck by explosives fired by an 88-millimeter from a tank. He was bleeding and had fractures and shrapnel throughout. I rushed to his aid and, of course, the main thing is to stop the bleeding. In those days we used tourniquets and as I was working on him, administering first aid, a German tank started coming down the road and Charlie recognized this. All of a sudden he said, “Morgan, get the hell out of here! This tank’s coming along the road, there’s no point in both of us being killed!” I just kept concentrating on taking care of Charlie; there’s no way I was going to leave him, and he kept saying, “Get out of here! Get out of here.” I must have said, “Charlie, I’m not leaving.” And finally the tank – we were on the side of the road – the tank was even with us on the road, the cover of the turret opened, and a German sticks his head out the tank and he looks down at us. Charlie says, “Oh, my God! They’re going to get us both! They’re going to kill us both!” All of a sudden the German pulled the cover shut, and the tank took off. And Charlie said, “Well, there is some honor on the battlefield after all.”
Of course, our casualties were extremely high in Normandy; the battalion that I served with went in with an average of roughly one hundred forty men to a company; and thirty-three days later came out with an average of twenty-one men to a company. But that was the nature of the beast. You thought every minute the law of averages was going to catch up with you and that would be it.
I was wounded a couple of times, not seriously, though. I was hit with shrapnel in Normandy, basically twice. Once, another medic and I were moving up a hill to go after a casualty at the top of the hill. One of us had a litter and one had a Red Cross flag. The Germans spotted us and they were throwing mortars in at us, so we never did make it and I was hit in the hip with a piece of shrapnel and then we rushed back. We couldn’t continue on. Then another time in Normandy I was taking care of this Mortar Platoon Sergeant, by the name of Fryar, about four or five days after the invasion. We were going through a town called San Sauveur le Vicomte and we were digging in for the night on the outskirts and the Germans threw in everything they had in the way of artillery and mortars and this fellow, Fryar, was so badly wounded that he had a leg was blown off and a large big piece of shrapnel in the chest. I couldn’t save him; there was no way; he was too far gone. And I still have a piece of shrapnel here in this finger. I had numerous small pieces of shrapnel throughout my back. They were superficial and I continued performing my duty as a medic.
After parachuting into Sicily, Italy, Normandy and Holland, and participating in six battle campaigns in the European Theatre of Operations, I returned home and was separated from the Army.
But I’ll always remember the people I served with, these troopers, who were just the most amazing people. Your friendships there, they’re of a different quality. You may not see an individual for years. You go to a reunion, he’s there. And it’s just as if it were yesterday. You start talking about the times when you were together and telling different stories. Mostly, it’s just talking about the fun times that you had when you were on a pass or leave in different places. Occasionally we would talk about incidents when someone was killed or when someone was wounded. But the camaraderie is unbelievable and so close, so close.
It’s amazing, really, when I think about it. I’d never really been anywhere, traveled to any extent, and all of a sudden to get involved in some thing like that – to be able to do it! You know, I made up my mind, “My God, I’m going to do this!” and nothing was going to deter me. My pride alone. So, I led a charmed life and was able to do this. I consider myself to be a “lucky boy” in every respect. Floss and I have had a great life and I couldn’t ask for more.