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Ken Moore, 90, D-Day medic took over church

IN THE MIDDLE of one of World War II's bloodiest battles - the 1944 D-Day invasion of western Europe - there was a small sanctuary where no fighting was permitted.

IN THE MIDDLE of one of World War II's bloodiest battles - the 1944 D-Day invasion of western Europe - there was a small sanctuary where no fighting was permitted.

Inside a village church in France, two Army medics - Ken Moore and Bob Wright - cared for dozens of wounded soldiers, using the pews as makeshift beds. Mortar blasts rocked the building, but the medics refused to leave, even when told enemy forces were about to overrun the village.

With scant supplies, they stayed on to administer aid in the packed church, and not just to Americans. They also treated wounded German soldiers who came to the door seeking help.

"They were young men much like us," Moore said in the documentary "Eagles of Mercy," "except they were wearing a different uniform."

Moore, 90, died Dec. 7 in a hospital in Sonoma, Calif. The cause was congestive heart failure, said his son, Francis.

The stone church, located in the village of Angoville-au-Plain, commemorates the medics' actions with a monument on the edge of an adjoining cemetery.

Moore said in the 2013 public television documentary that he was astonished "a couple of privates in the service," received such honors. But Daniel Hamchin, the village mayor, said their role pointed out the dichotomy of that day.

"They would kill each other in the cemetery," Hamchin said, "and they would heal each other in the church."

Kenneth Jack Moore was born Nov. 5, 1924, in Los Angeles. He was raised by a single mother and graduated from high school in Redding, Calif. Soon after the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor he joined his buddies in enlisting.

"We assumed it would take a few weeks to finish off the Japanese," he told the Toronto Star this year.

Moore volunteered to be a paratrooper and was chosen to be a medic, although he got only about two weeks of medical training.

He didn't see any combat until D-Day, June 6, 1944, when he was parachuted into France. As a medic, he carried medical supplies, but no weapon.

He and Wright, who died last year, commandeered the 12th-century church, designating it as an aid station by hanging a Red Cross banner outside.

"Our training and our job essentially was to stop the bleeding," Moore said in the film, "and administer morphine for pain and bandage up the casualties as best we could."

At times, the battle raged so close that the building shook violently, blowing out the windows. A mortar shell that came through the roof didn't explode, but when a chunk of the ceiling came down, it smacked Moore in the head, causing him to bleed.

"That's when I got my Purple Heart," he said. "I was embarrassed to take it."

According to the Geneva Convention treaty, soldiers wounded in battle were to receive aid by medics regardless of which side they were on. The rule was strictly applied inside the church, with Germans getting aid alongside Americans. "I don't recall any real animosity being expressed," Moore said.

In all, Moore and Wright treated more than 80 soldiers, including about a dozen Germans. They were awarded Silver Star medals for their actions, and both served in other battles.

After the war, Moore returned to California and worked for Chevron as an area representative. He eventually owned several gas stations until the mid-'80s when back problems forced him into retirement.

In addition to his son Francis, who lives in San Francisco, Moore is survived by five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.