Ray Lambert, a military doctor who survived multiple wounds on D-Day and was honored by the president in a battle to mark the 75th anniversary of World War II, died on Friday. He was 100 years old.
Lambert died at his home in Seven Lakes, North Carolina, with his wife and daughter, said a neighbor and his friend Dr Darrell Simpkins. The doctor, who accompanied Lambert to France in June 2019, said the veteran had been diagnosed with a severe form of facial cancer and congestive heart failure.
“Ray was talking about meeting, talking on the phone, and enjoying the guests until yesterday,” Simpkins wrote in an email to the Associated Press. “He was an amazing man.”
A native of Alabama was a doctor and 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, part of the 1st’s Army’s Division – “Big Red One.” He took part in the Allies invasion of North Africa and Sicily before his war ended on June 6, 1944, on the sands of Omaha Beach.
Ray Lambert, a veteran of the 1st Infantry Division D-Day attack, holds a copy of his old photo of himself wearing a uniform at his home in Seven Lakes, NC, on April 17, 2014.
Ray Lambert, a veteran of the 1st Infantry Division D-Day attack, holds a copy of his old uniform in his home at Seven Lakes, NC, on April 17, 2014. Gerry Broome / AP file
Sgt. Lambert was in the first wave of attacks. He was assisting a wounded soldier in a heavy surf when a ramp of art descended on him, pushing him down.
“Ray was only 23 years old, but he had won three Purple Hearts and two Silver Stars for fighting in North Africa and Sicily,” then-President Donald Trump told a silent ceremony in 2019 at the American Cemetery overlooking the sea.
“They’ve come to the right place, right here below us,” Trump continued as Lambert sat behind him, his favorite red cap “D-Day Survivor” on his head. “Ray ran back to the water. He dragged the man one after the other. He was shot in the arm. Her leg was torn to shreds. His back was broken. You almost drowned. ”
At the end of his speech, Trump turned to face Lambert.
“Ray,” he said. “The free world salutes you.”
For years, this dwarf entrepreneur refused to talk about the tragedies he saw and experienced overseas. But as he grew older and his fellow veterans began to pass away, he felt he had a sacred duty to discuss his own case with them.
“I did what I was called to do,” he wrote in his book Every Man a Hero, published 75 years earlier. “As a warrior, my job was to save people, and to lead others who did the same. I was proud of that work and always am. But I’ve always been a normal person, not someone who likes to be at the head of the show …
“My job now is to remember, not for my own sake, but for the sake of others.”
Lambert had made several trips to Normandy in France, visiting classes and looking for countless pictures. During the 2019 trip, a French elementary student asked Lambert if he still had nightmares about Normandy.
“When I look at the beaches of Omaha, I remember all my friends who were killed there,” he said. “And when I look at this channel and the bitter water, I, it seems, sometimes I hear voices.”
That morning in 1944, as bullets were blowing through the air and mud flowed around him, Lambert scanned the sea to find anything, anything behind it to treat the wounded. He saw a lump of remaining German concrete, about 8 feet [8 m] wide and 15 feet [2.4 m] wide and six feet [1.2 m] high).
“It was my salvation,” he said.
The 2018 poster now calls it “Ray’s Rock.”
Simpkins said Lambert had requested that his ashes be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, and that some be scattered in Omaha Beach.
Lambert is survived by his wife, Barbara, and daughter, Linda McInerney. She lost her son, Arnold Lambert.