The Maine Public Broadcasting Network
Listen Live
Classical 24
Search
Visible By Administrators Only
70 Years Later, Vivid Memories of D-Day Linger for Maine Veteran
06/06/2014   Reported By: Tom Porter

Charles Norman Shay of Old Town remembers all too vividly where he was 70 years ago today. The 89-year-old Penobscot Indian was a combat medic with the 1st U.S. Infantry Division - also known as the Big Red One - and was in the first wave of troops to go ashore at Omaha Beach in Normandy on the June 6, 1944 - just a shy of his 19th birthday. Shay is one of the featured veterans on a two-part documentary airing tonight and tomorrow on the History Channel. Tom Porter has more.

Related Media
70 Years Later, Vivid Memories of D-Day Linger for Listen
 Duration:
3:35

NormanShay2

 Charles Norman Shay, as he appeared in a story that aired on MPBN Television in 2007.

Charles Norman Shay of Old Town remembers all too vivdly where he was 70 years ago today. The 89-year-old Penobscot Indian was a combat medic with the 1st U.S. Infantry Division - also known as the Big Red One - and was in the first wave of troops to go ashore at Omaha Beach in Normandy on the June 6, 1944 - just a shy of his 19th birthday. Shay is one of the featured veterans on a two-part documentary airing tonight and tomorrow on the History Channel. Tom Porter has more.

Shay is in France this week for the 70th anniversary celebrations of D-Day. But in 2007, Shay told MPBN's Jennifer Rooks that a lot of young Penobscot men volunteered for wartime service - if they weren't drafted first.

"Because of the situation on the reservation that we lived on, because there was no employment for these young men during this period, many of them went into the military for the adventure and to get away from the reservation," Shay said.

NormanShay1

Shay in his medic uniform during World War II.

Nearly 100 Penobscots served in World War II, says Shay - that's out of a population of just 500 at the time. And as it happens, Shay says he encountered another Penobscot, named Melvin Neptune, the night before D-Day.

"I was very happy to see him and we had a small talk," Shay recalled. "We didn't talk about the mission that was ahead of us, we always talked about home, about young men and young boys we knew growing up, wondering what happened to him and where he could be and so-forth. This was our conservation."

A few hours later, at about 5.30 in the morning, Shay and his comrades jumped out of the landing craft into chest-deep water.

"The men were loaded down with all sorts of equipment, some of them didn't even get off the ramp - they were cut down before they were even able to leave the ramp. They landed in the water, they were dead already, and ..." Shay says, breaking down in tears.

Shay has to compose himself as he remembers the bloody events of that morning. It wasn't long, he says, before his training as a medic was put to the test.

"Once we reached the beach and were out of the water, we had to make a dash for the embankment because that was the only protection there was there," Shay said. "And when I got to the embankment, of course being a medic I assisted, I started treating the wounded who had made it to the embankment, I started treating them, binding up their wounds and so forth."

Shay says he spotted several wounded men floating helplessly in the water. From the relative safety of the embankment, he rushed back to the water's edge to help.

"It was just a reaction that I had, to go and help them," Shay said. "And I returned to the water. I don't know how I ever did it, and I pulled several men out of the water to the beach. I did what I could for them. I don't know where my strength came from, but I was able to save several lives."

Penobscot Indian Charles Shay of Old Town, Maine, was awarded the Silver Star for his bravery on Omaha Beach 70 years ago. He served with the 1st Infantry Division through most of the rest of the war until his capture in March 1945.

Those were excerpts from an interview Shay gave to MPBN Television seven years ago.

Tonight, Shay is featured in a two-part documentary program called D-Day in HD, produced by Lone Wolf Media of South Portland. It airs tonight and tomorrow at 9 p.m. on the History Channel.




 

ReturnReturn!



Become a Fan of the NEW MPBNNews Facebook page. Get news, updates and unique content to share and discuss:

Recommended by our audience on Facebook:
Copyright © 2014 Maine Public Broadcasting Network. All rights reserved.