Project Omaha Beach: The Life and Military Service of a Penobscot Indian Elder

Shay, Charles Norman

Published by Polar Bear & Company, 2012
ISBN 10: 1882190084 / ISBN 13: 9781882190089
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Synopsis: The author is a direct descendent of the adventurous Baron Jean-Vincent d'Abbadie de Saint-Castin (immortalized by Longfellow) and Pidianiske, daughter of Penobscot Chief Madockawando. Feted as a veteran of the liberation of Europe, Charles Shay unexpectedly finds himself in the footsteps of his French ancestry, being received in Basque villages, in the region of Castine. From Castine, Maine, and Indian Island on the Penobscot River to the beaches of Normandy and beyond, cross-cultural connections are discovered along with memories of living history.

With 184 illustrations and documents of being received in French towns and in ceremonies on two continents we are provided with an historic insight into the life of a Penobscot veteran of WWII and Korea.

About the Author: Charles Norman Shay is a Penobscot Indian elder at Indian Island, Maine. Born in 1924, he enjoyed his childhood years living on this small island in the Penobscot River, opposite Old Town. He is the grandson of the author of The Life and Traditions of the Red Man (1893), Joseph Nicolar, and proud of his heritage. Reviewing his own long life, he decided to share his personal story as a result of a pilgrimage he made to Omaha Beach in 2007, more than sixty years after he waded ashore as a nineteen-year-old combat medic in a 1st Division assault platoon in the first wave of D-Day.

Although his regiment suffered about one thousand casualties on that day, Charles Shay was able to rescue many wounded comrades. For his heroic efforts on 6 June 1944, he earned a Silver Star.

After the Normandy campaign, Shay continued serving as a combat medic on the front, including the Battle of the Bulge. After crossing the Rhine, he became a prisoner of war but was liberated after several weeks in captivity.

Soon after returning home, he reenlisted and served as a medic with American occupation troops in Vienna, where he and his wife Lilli were married. In 1950, after leaving Austria, he was reassigned to the 3rd Division and became a medic in the Korean War. He earned more medals and was promoted to master sergeant. After his honorable discharge and a brief return to Maine, Shay enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was sent to the Central Pacific Ocean, where atomic bombs were tested.

In 1964, having retired from the military, the young Penobscot and his Austrian wife returned to Vienna, where he worked for the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees until 1988. Since then, Shay has returned to Indian Island, where he inherited the house and teepee that had belonged to his aunt Lucy, better known as Princess Watahwaso.

Since 2007, when he decided to return to the battlefields in Normandy, Belgium, and Germany, he has received much recognition for his contribution to the war effort, including the Legion of Honor from the French president. In this memoir, the author offers us a window into his personal life, so full of unexpected twists and turns that took him across the globe.

--Dr. Harald E.L. Prins, Kansas State University

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Title: Project Omaha Beach: The Life and Military ...
Publisher: Polar Bear & Company
Publication Date: 2012
Binding: Trade Paperback
Book Condition: New
Edition: 1st Edition

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