Sam Elliott

Tribute to SGT Arnold Raymond "Ray" Lambert at the 30th National Memorial Day Concert

delivered 26 May 2019

 

[CONTENT ADVISORY: CONTAINS DISTURBING IMAGERY. DISCRETION ADVISED]

[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

We were headed to Omaha Beach -- and I was glad. After all the fighting in Africa and Sicily, I just wanted to get this war over with. It was daylight on the 6th. I went up on deck and found my brother Bill there. We talked about our chances and what our parents would think. About 6:00am the signal came to go to stations. My brother and I promise[d] whoever survived would take care of the other's family. And we shook hands and went our separate ways.

I climbed down the nets and got into the Higgins boat with my unit. On the way in we could hear the battleships firing and see our -- see the big shells landing ahead of us. Guys were getting sick and vomiting from the choppy water in the diesel fume.

As we got in closer the Germans had a bird's-eye view of us coming in. We picked up machine-gun fire. The bullets clanged against the metal ramp of the boat like hail. Then the big 88s on the hill opened up. Every time a shell whistled overhead all you could hear was the sound of a banshee screaming. Boats around us were burning. I saw men on fire;  even their shoes were on the fire. Dead and wounded were floating in the water.

We had orders not to stop and pick anyone up.

I told my men, "When the ramp drops, hit the water hard and keep as low as you can to dodge the bullets." We sank up over our head.

That was the last time I saw most of them. Thirty-one men jumped off that boat; just seven of them made it to the beach. The only cover was a block of concrete the Germans had failed to clear. That's where I set up a collection point for the casualties. Medics were trained not to dig in. We were there to see the troops and for them to see us.

I detailed Corporal Raymond LePore to hunker down and treat the men while I brought in the injured. Ray and I had been together since '39. I knew I could count on him.

It was total confusion -- shells exploding, boats blowing up, people yelling because they couldnít hear anything, machine gun bullets hitting the water all around you, the roar of the boats coming in. Its like you're all alone in a world of a million people because youíre concentrating on what you have to do.

[I] hadn't gone far when I felt the bullet go through my right arm. I just kept going. I was thinking of only one thing: getting to the men who needed me. There was a soldier laying right on the edge of the water. One arm was almost shot off. Every time a wave would come in that arm would be pulled back out to sea and he'd try to reach out for it. The first thing you're supposed to do is keep a wounded man from going into shock. But he was too far gone. Nothing I could do for him. He died in my arms.

I was on my way to treat another soldier when a piece of shrapnel the size of my hand tore a hole in my left thigh. I put a tourniquet on it, gave myself a shot of morphine, and went back to work. You did the job you were trained to do. If you didn't, you died. I could feel my right arm going numb from the first bullet. [I] saw a guy struggling in chest-deep water, grabbed him with my good arm just as a Higgins boat rolled in and dropped its ramp. The ramp hit me right in the back -- crushed two vertebrae and pushed us both to the bottom.

That's when I started talking to the one Guy I knew could help me. I said, "God, I've asked you many times -- but just give me another chance. Let me save one more person." And for some reason that boat raised its ramp and backed out. Somehow I managed to drag his boat to safety.

I told Corporal LePore he'd have to take my place. He stood up, and then he just collapsed against my shoulder. His helmet fell off, and I saw the hole right in the center. Everything went black after that.

The next thing I knew I was on a boat going back to England. A Navy doctor looked at my dog tags and he told me, "We have another Lambert here." My brother Bill's stretcher was put right next to mine on the dock at Weymouth.1 He'd been on the beach with G Company. We went to the hospital in the same ambulance. When I woke up, he was on the cot next to me. He looked over and said, "What are you doing here?" "Same thing you are," I told him. And he said, "Oh, God. Now what's mother gonna think." We both made it out okay. Bill lived to be 92.

People who have never been in a war should understand what soldiers give up. The guys we left on Omaha Beach never had a chance to live the lives they'd dreamed of.

[A] day hasnít gone by when I havenít prayed for the men we lost, and their families.

I still wake up at night sometimes, thinking about the guys. Every man that walked into those machine guns and that artillery fire on Omaha Beach that day -- every man was a hero.

What kind of person would I be if I didnít tell their stories?


Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

Image Source: Digitally enhanced YouTube Screenshot

1 Seaside town on the English Channel in Dorset. From Wikipedia: "Weymouth's military importance made it a target for German bombing during World War II. The air raids destroyed 1,200 civilian dwellings and killed 76 civilians, and the high street was so badly damaged that much of it had to be demolished after the war. In September 1942 the first full-scale testing of the bouncing bomb was carried out west of the town, on the lagoon behind Chesil Bank. Tens of thousands of Allied troops departed Weymouth on D-Day, bound for Normandy beaches that included Omaha and Utah. By the time the conflict in Europe had ended, 517,816 troops and 144,903 vehicles had been through the port." [Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weymouth,_Dorset#Modern_times]

Page Created: 11/9/21

U.S. Copyright Status: Text = Uncertain. Image = Fair Use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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