Charles N. Shay

charlesshayCharles Norman Shay

Born: 27th June 1924 in Bristol, Conecticut

Enlisted: US Army April 1943

Traning: Combat Medic

F Company 2nd Bn, 16th Reg., 1st US Devision

Training in Sount England '43-'44

In April of 1943 I myself was drafted into the military and was selected for training as a medical technician with courses in basic surgery. Joining the Medical Detachment of the First Division's 16th Infantry Regiment, I was attached as a platoon medic to Fox Company. Encamped in southern England, this Division had already fought in North Africa and Sicily and was now training for the invasion of Nazi-German occupied France. Named after our shoulder patch, the Big Red One formed part of a huge armada crossing the Channel on the night of 5-6 June 1944, a date that has become known as D-Day. My company formed part of our regiment's second battalion and as such I served as a combat medic in the first wave of the landing at Omaha Beach. Fox Company suffered enormous casualties, lost all its officers, and was nearly wiped out. Many combat medics were also wounded or killed on that infamous day. Feeling sustained by my mother's prayers, I found the strength to come to the rescue of my fallen comrades wounded by enemy fire and drowning in the rising tide. Like everyone else, I did what I was trained to do. For my service to my comrades on that day, I was awarded the Silver Star. At the time, such a military distinction meant little to me or to comrades similarly decorated. What mattered was survival and winning the war.


Click to enlarge

Omaha-Beach near WN 62, 6th June'44 at 06.30, 1st wave


Colleville sur Mer, 7th June'44, Mosles, 8th June '44


Tour en Bessin, 9th June'44,Ruisseau de Cottun, 10th June


La Butte the 13th, and in Cormolian 17th June till 12th July




As a combat medic I bandaged wounds, injected morphine, and otherwise treated far too many bleeding GIs in too many battles to count. Foreign place names meant little or nothing to Privates like me and we did not know which enemy divisions were facing us in fierce, now famous fights such as the Battle of Aachen, Huertgen Forest, or the Ardennes ("Battle of the Bulge"). After storming through the Siegfried Line and crossing the Rhine River in March 1945, my regiment was poised to participate in a final offensive to defeat Nazi-Germany. Attached to a reconnaissance squad, I crossed a railroad bridge over the Sieg River, a tributary of the Rhine. Scouting out the farming village of Auel (whose name and exact location I did not know until many years after the war), GIs walking ahead of me turned into an alley and found the 88-mm gun barrel of a big German Panzer (Tiger tank) trained at them, with some 20 enemy soldiers ready to fire. My comrades dropped their weapons. As a medic, all I had was my first-aid kit and white armband with its red-cross -- both confiscated by the Germans. Soon after our capture, American artillery shelled the village and we dove for cover. What happened to my comrades after that, I do not know to this day. I myself was taken away for a brief interrogation. Seeing I looked different from other captured GIs, a German officer asked me my race and I answered "American Indian." The next few days were spent marching, to where I knew not – always by night, to avoid being strafed by Allied fighter planes. Our column grew larger as other captured GIs joined. We finally arrived in a small German POW camp known by its German name as Stalag VI-G, just outside Neubergstadt. (Again, I only found out about this name in recent years as a result of research for a book on my adventures. [1] For us, the end of the war came on 12 April when American troops had encircled a large German Army, trapping 350,000 enemy soldiers in what has become known as the Ruhr Pocket, and liberated our POW camp. I returned home and saw my parents. Soon, the Japanese also capitulated and my three brothers all returned home safe from the war. Several Penobscots from Indian Island were wounded or killed on battlefields overseas.


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Because there were few employment opportunities for American Indian veterans like myself, I re-enlisted in 1946 and served as a medic with a Military Police Battalion in Vienna, Austria, then still occupied by the Americans and our allies. There I met and married my lovely wife, Lilli. Soon after the Korean War broke out in mid-1950, I joined the 3rd Division's 7th Infantry Regiment as a medic and was shipped to Japan. A few months later, my regiment went into battle in Korea and I served again as a combat medic. Promoted to Master Sergeant, I was awarded the Bronze Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters.

Charles has his own website, with more background stories and information, which can be found by clicking here.