82nd Airborne Division Blog

Doc McIlvoy delivers baby near front lines

Shortly after the 82nd Airborne Division liberated the town of La Haye du Puits in Normandy, France, Major Daniel McIlvoy was called to deliver a baby very near the front lines. The chaplain’s assistant, Private Jack Ospital, was given the assignment to accompany Doc McIlvoy because he spoke French… barely.

They drove out to a farmhouse where the soon to be papa excitedly ushered them upstairs. The wife was in bed and other family members stood nearby. It was strange that they had not evacuated as the fighting approached, but perhaps they were set on having their baby in their own home. Either way, the time was close at hand.

Ospital did his best to translate between the French couple and McIlvoy. He quickly learned that “It was apparent to me now that when the Major said something to me to relay to them, as long as I said something to them and they said something back to me and I said something to the Major, all was well. The thing that bothered me was that the only part of this procedure that I was sure of was the bit that went on between the Major and me.”

Ospital did catch the meaning of the words the Frenchman used to comfort her wife as the labor pains increased. He told her “Do not think of the pain, just think of the fun we had making the baby.”

Regardless of communication problems the couple were in good hands. McIlvoy was the regimental surgeon for the 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment and knew what he was doing.  Soon a beautiful baby boy was laid in his mother’s arms. The next day when McIlvoy and Ospital returned to check on the family’s well being the proud father asked Ospital for the Major’s name. On learning it was Daniel McIlvoy, the father announced that Daniel would also be the baby’s name.

McIlvoy was very pleased by this and the Frenchman gave him a dozen fresh eggs before they left -  which under those conditions meant an awful lot.

To read Private Ospital’s full account, see The Way We Were: Doc McIlvoy and his Parachuting Medics by Michel De Trez

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