Retired physician recalls D-Day
PARKERSBURG – Dr. George Gevas, a retired Parkersburg physician, was in the middle of the invasion of Normandy, the largest amphibious invasion in history that was the beginning of the end of World War II for the Nazi regime.
Before D-Day, Gevas, 89, had been a student at Ohio University. On D-Day he was a medical technician with the U.S. Army 61st Medical Battalion, seeing his only action of World War II. He was on a transport ship off Omaha Beach during the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
Gevas said he graduated from Yorkville (Ohio) High School in 1943, intent on becoming a physician. At Ohio University, he completed one year, of two semesters, of classes.
Gevas was drafted and said he wanted to be in the Army rather than the Navy because, “I don’t like the water.”
“I requested training to be a medical technician,” he said. “I had planned to be a doctor so that was the right training for me.”
Gevas said he was one of two medical technicians to be on a transport ship to France. His job as a technician was to assist surgeons in England.
As for the actual invasion, Gevas said they knew an invasion of some type was planned but they did not know how large a force was assembled. The invasion force was made up of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Norway and the Free French.
“I knew we were going to be off the shore of France and the invasion was in progress.”
Gevas said he saw ships anchored and firing to cover the troops on the shore.
“We heard the shots on either side of us; we were not hit,” he said. “I saw what was going on and I prayed to the almighty for the safety of all involved.”
Gevas said they did not land on the beach the first time, but he saw the carnage from the invasion.
“We were close to the beach and we saw the dead floating in the water and on the beach,” he said.
During the invasion he said the ship had two responsibilities at Omaha Beach.
“We had troops on the ship heading to France and then we picked up the wounded and took them back to England,” he said. “We made the trip between England and France three times, carrying troops in and brought back the wounded.”
Gevas said some of the wounded included Germans who were captured and had been wounded. Gevas said after 69 years he does not remember if he worked with any of the wounded Germans.
“All we could do was give them first aid,” he said. “We could not do surgery on the ship; we didn’t have the supplies.”
Gevas added the ship was considered too unsanitary for surgery.
On their second trip to Omaha Beach Gevas said they actually landed on the beach since it had been secured by that time.
According to The National World War II Museum in New Orleans, by June 11, with the beachheads firmly secured, more than 326,000 troops had crossed with more than 100,000 tons of military equipment. Paris was liberated on Aug. 25. Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945.
Gevas’ wife, Mary, said for many years he would not discuss the D-Day invasion.
After his discharge from the military, Gevas said he resumed his studies. However, instead of returning to Athens he attended the University of Maryland at Baltimore and became an OB/GYN. During the war his mother and sisters had relocated to the city and he decided to stay with them.
Gevas and his wife were married in 1951 and he graduated in 1953. In 1957 they came to Parkersburg and Gevas practiced for 40 years. Mary said they moved to the Parkersburg area since they had family in Athens.