Charles Shay survived two wars. He was also part of the first wave of troops to land in Normandy, France, on D-Day 75 years ago. He shares his thoughts on what happened that day and how it shaped his life.
Video by Army Spc. Kevin Payne
(Charles Shay) What is in my heart? Well it’s a very serious affair that is in my heart. I’m a Penobscot Indian living in the Penobscot Indian Reservation. I was unfortunately participated in two wars during my military service. I experienced, in both occasions, things that affected my life. Many of them had never heard of Omaha Beach before they landed and made the invasion. I was one of them. I landed at zero-six-thirty in the first wave. Once we get in the area of the beach the Germans had placed these obstacles under the water, all up and down the beach, and of course we were receiving fire from the shore by the Germans — machine-gun fire and small-arms, mortars. Survival was on the minds of everybody. When we jumped into the water I landed into water up to my chest. I went from one obstacle to the next, then I left and ran for the beach and I made it. Seeing so many dead, it was very difficult and I had to clear my mind from everything what I was seeing and do the work that I was trained to do. And I started treating men that had been wounded, bullet wounds, broken limbs. Many of the wounded men were floundering and they could not help themselves, they could not move and they were drowning, so I dropped what I was doing on the shoreline and I went back to the water. Once I was able to move like I started moving up and down the beach, looking for wounded and treating them, and while I was doing this I came across a friend of mine that I had trained with in England and he was a medic also and he had a serious stomach wound. His name was Edward Marosovich. When I saw him I knew he was dying –he knew it also, I think, and, uh, I gave him a shot of morphine to ease his pain and I did what I could for him, but I could not save his life and … well, he passed on. [somber music]] I often wondered how come I was able to survive two wars and not even be injured once. We have dedicated on Normandy itself the Charles Shay Park. Although it bears my name it is not specifically for me. It was meant to recognize all Native Americans during the Second World War, and perhaps in the First World War, there were many Native American veterans serving. I myself believe, they will think I’m foolish, but I believe that I can establish contact with the men, with their souls that are still wandering on that beach. I seem to have met people that are only helping me establish my life and doing some of the things that I had dreamed of in my — there in my life and well this is the end result and I’m very happy with everything. I’m happy with everything that has happened to me.