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"The water was red with blood from dead and wounded" (Video interview, 33:51)

   Charles Norman Shay
Collection image
Charles Shay [detail from video]
War: World War, 1939-1945; Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Army; Army
Unit: 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division
Service Location: European Theater; France; Germany; Austria; Camp Pickett, Virginia; Fort Benjamin Harris, Indiana; Stalag 6-G
Rank: Private First Class
POW: Yes
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A Penobscot Indian from Maine, Charles Norman Shay was drafted into the Army in 1943 and assigned to combat medic duty with the 1st Infantry Division. On D-Day, he waded through chest-high water to get to Omaha Beach, and began treating men immediately after he made it to the sand. When Shay saw that the tide was rising fast, he started evacuating injured soldiers struggling to get to higher ground. After taking part in the Battles of Hürtgen Forest and the Bulge, he was captured by the Germans in late March 1945, and liberated the following month. Shay was awarded the Silver Star and the French Légion d’Honneur for his heroic efforts on D-Day.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (11 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (96 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (11 items)
Experiences with English civilians and soldiers; quartered with civilians; dated one English girl; met very nice people in England. (01:24) Encountered another soldier from the Penobscot reservation, who was four years older, Melvin Neptune; looked up to him because he was already a hardened combat infantryman. (01:38) Situation on D-Day; struggling to get to the beach; using the barriers that the Germans had constructed as protection from incoming fire. (02:24)
Survival was his main concern; rescuing the wounded from the surf; found he had unexpected strength. (01:53) Moving inland; losing contact with his platoon; coming across a fellow medic with a stomach wound. (01:25) Recollections of the Battle of the Bulge; treating lots of frostbite (01:41)
Attached to recon squad during a mission over a bridge on the Siege River in Belgium; confronted by Germans; captured as a POW. (03:08) Germans took his weapon and medical supplies; immediately took him behind German lines. (01:39) Germans forced them to march 50 or 60 miles to Stalag 6G; given meager but adequate rations; liberated by Americans in early April. (01:53)
Repatriated to Boston; parents had no idea he was on his way back; arriving home. (02:27) Bonds between comrades; tried not to make close friends; losing during the Battle of the Huertgen Forest. (01:46) 

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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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