David A MacRunnell was an Army Private in WW2 with the 1st Infantry Division, 1st Medical Battalion, Company A. The Medical battalions primary mission was to organize and conduct the necessary evacuation and medical care for casualties for their divisions, and were always with divisions in the field. Pvt MacRunnell performed these duties at Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Pvt MacRunnell was born in Hennepin County, Minnesota on August 20, 1922. His father Frank was born in Iowa and was a farmer. The 1940 census says that his occupation changed to Laborer in that year. David's mom, Goldie, was born in Indiana and had 4 other children besides David. His brother Harold also served in the Army. David probably enlisted in 1942 or 1943. The 1st Medical Battalion was officially activated in October of 1940, Company B one month later. Company A contributed 15 enlisted men to the unit as cadre, or specially trained soldiers. The unit trained its own men and other medical personnel. Immediately after Pearl Harbor amphibious training began at Virginia Beach. Pvt MacRunnells mostly likely joined his unit in Liverpool, England on November 5, 1943, after they returned from Italy. After different moves to several locations for training and a visit by General Montgomery at Cattisock, Dorset, England, where they trained until April 24, 1944 , they practiced landing exercises at Slapton Sands, Devon, England, until May 6th.
Company A of the 1st Medical Battalion did not land on Omaha Beach until 2200 hrs on D-Day. They had been scheduled to land that morning with the 16th Division, the unit they had been attached to as a collecting company for the Normandy Invasion. Enemy guns had set their landing craft on fire during 2 attempts at landing. Captain Ralston, their commander and Distinguished Service Cross recipient (for these actions), had worked heroically to rescue his men from the burning holds and he treated the casualties. He rallied his shocked Company, got them into another craft and they headed again to Omaha. Litter bearers of Company A and medical personnel for a Battalion Aid Station landed. Major Tegtmeyer, a regimental surgeon who found safety on a ledge that sloped upwards from the waters edge, described what faced medical troops who had survived their wading and crawling to a shingle pile where they found protection, "as far as the eye could see in either direction, bundles of bodies of men, living, wounded and dead tightly packed like cigars in a box, some trying to dig themselves into the shale shelf, some firing toward the concrete protected enemy......artillery and mortar shells exploding on the beach and in the water.....machine gun and rifle bullets grazing the top of the ledge.... with sharp hisses as they hit the water or richocheted off stones....the arched backs of innumerable human forms eddying to and fro with the tide...the water a murky pink ....frantic cry for Medic....Medic." Through all of this, first aid men of all units were still active and under fire, bandaging, splinting, giving Morphine or plasma. After the beach was secured , an aid station was set up at the top of the beachhead . Pvt David Arthur MacRunnell died on Omaha Beach on this day, as did 2,400 other soldiers. His name is etched on the 1st Infantry Division Monument on Omaha Beach. He is buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was awarded the Purple Heart.
Resources: med-dept.com/unithistories/1st-medical-battalion , history.army.mil.com , fold3.com , findagrave.com , honorstates.org , ancestry.com
This story is part of the Stories Behind the Stars project (see www.storiesbehindthestars.org). This is a national effort of volunteers to write the stories of all 400,000+ of the US WWII fallen here on Fold3. Can you help write these stories? Related to this, there will be a smart phone app that will allow people to visit any war memorial or cemetery, scan the fallen's name and read his/her story.