Edward M. Orcutt, U.S. Army

Editor’s note: This is the first of two parts.

World War II Duty: The Normandy Invasion (first wave), Eighth Army Infantry, Patton’s Ninth Army, The Battle of Hurtgen Forest, France, Germany

Combat Medic – Military personnel who have been trained to at least the EMT level, consisting of a minimum civilian 16-week training. Their responsibility is to provide first aid and front line trauma care on the battlefield. They are also responsible for providing continual medical care regarding disease, sickness or battlefield injury when there is no physician present.

  • The Geneva Convention – Comprised of four conventions and three protocols. Upon its conception, it set the standards for humane treatment during wartime. Convention 1 in 1864 addressed rules for treating the wounded and sick. Convention 2 in 1906 addressed rules regarding shipwrecked survivors. Convention 3 in 1929 addressed rules for Prisoners of War. Convention 4 in 1949 addressed rules for civilians (i.e. those in the aftermath of the Holocaust). In 1977, Protocol 1 re-examined issues for victims of international conflicts. Protocol 2 in 1977 extended more rules regarding international conflicts. Protocol 3 in 1988 involved issues for national conflicts.

The rules of war are clearly written in the Geneva Convention and are to be followed by both sides. In order for me to properly tell Edward M. Orcutt’s story, readers need to know that some jobs in the military are protected under the Geneva Convention. These are mostly highly dangerous jobs involving life-determining situations. In order for these rules to be followed, consequences of breaking these rules are also clearly stated. Pertaining to the job of combat medic, the Geneva Convention states that anyone known firing a weapon at a combat medic wearing a clear insignia stating he is a medic will be considered guilty of a war crime.

Rules for combat medics – In modern times, most medics carry personal weapons to protect themselves and the wounded in their care. This is warranted if it is needed for defense. But if at any time the medic should use his weapon offensively, he immediately gives up all his protection under the Geneva Convention and becomes a target that the enemy is free to fire upon.

  • Medals and awards: Purple Heart, World War II Victory Medal, European Asiatic Medal, two Bronze stars

Early life

Edward M. Orcutt was born Jan. 6, 1924 at home. The son of Walter and Mabel (Morrissey) Orcutt, he and his family changed their homestead when they moved from 242 King St. in Dunkirk to Washington Avenue, also in Dunkirk. Next, they moved to Fredonia, living in a house on Central Avenue, and finally, the family settled at 504 Central Ave. in Dunkirk. It was their dream home. Orcutt’s father, Walter, was one of the five charter members of Dunkirk’s Hose Company 2. When Walter wasn’t helping to organize a rescue effort for a burning house in Dunkirk, he worked as an electrician at Allegheny Ludlum Steel Company. He also wired new homes and additions for members of the community as a side job.

When they lived on King Street, the Orcutt family had to do quite a bit of organizing. The home only had two bedrooms and one bathroom, and this presented a challenge for the Orcutts and their seven boys, James, Walter “Beech,” John “Jack,” Thomas, Harry, George and Edward. The Orcutts had a baby girl, but sadly, she died in her first year of life. They also lost their son, Jack, when he was only nine. Orcutt never got to know his brother John because of their age difference.

When it was time to go to school, Orcutt was off to Dunkirk’s School 3. After that, it was Dunkirk Middle School and finally high school. Orcutt was an active student, being the junior class president and involved in the high school newspaper. He was also in the senior play, and the English and History clubs. If someone picked up Orcutt’s yearbook, he or she would see a happy-go-lucky guy who was popular and somewhat of a “Ladies’ Man.” When graduation day came on a beautiful Sunday in June 1942, Orcutt came home with his yearbook signed by over 90 percent of his classmates.

While in high school, Orcutt worked for his future father-in-law, Mathias Woelfle, who owned and operated Woelfle Funeral Home along with driving an ambulance. Orcutt helped in the funeral parlor, and dated Woelfle’s daughter Mabel.

After high school ended, jobs were scarce. Orcutt and his good friend, Roland Mahany, would go from employer to employer looking for work to hold them over into the fall, when they could enlist. The country was in its first year of war and no victories were in sight. The country’s military bases were full with men training to go to war. The U.S. wanted to set up a good offense to start the coming push to Berlin and Tokyo.

A country at war

After two years of working for the funeral parlor, Orcutt left to enlist. He was anxious to serve his country and do his duty. Orcutt was registered as a “conscientious objector,” and was exempt from being forced into a combat position. Many conscientious objectors were still willing to serve their country; they just wanted to do so in nonviolent ways. Orcutt still wanted to do what he could for his country.

NEXT?WEEK: Part two.