Berkeley Square resident, Robert McIntosh is the type of person who would shy away from being called a hero. The fact of the matter is, he is one.
At 22- years-old the farmer and son of a veterinarian, who never traveled far from his home in Oxford, found himself on the shores of Marseilles, France. It was his first stop before reaching the front lines of World War II in Germany.
Before his deployment, Robert expressed to his superiors that he preferred to be in the Infantry. His medical experience with his father’s practice; however, convinced them that he should be in the Medical Corps.
Being a combat medic for the 63rd Infantry Division was an important, but precarious position.
“There was only one medic per Corps. Snipers labeled them as targets because the line couldn’t move forward without one,” he explains. “You were likely to be killed if they ever shot you because no one would be there to tend to you. At one time, I was the only medic for three Corps.”
Medics were fairly easy targets because they wore large red crosses on their helmets and armbands and, according to the Geneva Convention, were not allowed to carry a weapon. Despite the constant threat of danger, Robert says he was never anxious about being shot.
“You can’t sit around and worry about things like that,” he says. “All I was really concerned about was getting through the next day.”
Working twelve hours a day shifts, he saw many wounded men. He experienced a bizarre case where a German civilian boy shot a soldier with a wooden bullet. He also was caught in a mine field inside an innocent looking garden plot. He narrowly escaped it after attempting to help a radio operator who stepped on a landmine. He gave soldiers comfort and morphine in their final hours and assisted whatever way he could until he accepted a “battlefield promotion” as a Platoon Sergeant in the Infantry.
In the contentious city of Antwerp, Robert attempted to lead his men across the Danube to face a barrage of German forces and tanks. The bridge had been blown to pieces after five attempts to place anti-tank weapons on the other side. Without a clear path, he and his men waded through the water. Only four crossed successfully. That four became two—Robert and his friend from New Orleans. Two became one when Robert’s friend incurred a bullet to the head. Robert was standing so close to him that the shrapnel from the bullet barely missed Robert’s eye.
Facing the enemy alone, Robert grabbed for an anti-tank gun and aimed as best he could toward an oncoming tank.
“When you are in the middle of something like that, you do what you have to do to survive,” he explains. “I never handled a weapon like that before, but I thought I will go ahead and try it.”
Robert managed to hit the tank, blowing off the chain and rendering it useless. German forces thought there were more troops near the bridge and retreated to conserve their tanks and troops.
Robert returned to an aid station to see to his wound. Without realizing the severity of his injuries, he argued with medics and insisted that he go back to the front. Instead, doctors sent him to a hospital in England. Nine days later, the war ended.
For his extraordinary service, Robert earned four medals, including a silver star (third-highest personal decoration for valor in combat); bronze star (for heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone); good conduct medal; and purple heart (for being wounded while serving).
“I didn’t go out there because I wanted to be a hero. I felt it was something I had to do,” explains Robert. “Still, I’m glad that I served,”
After the war, Robert returned home to his wife Jean. He lived a quiet life raising his three children and livestock on 80 acres of his father’s land. He now enjoys a happy life of retirment at Berkeley Square.
This Veteran’s Day, Community First Solutions is proud to salute all our nation’s heroes. We are honored to serve many men and women who served our country, providing them with the quality care they deserve.