By Rep. Donna Loring on Wed, 2007-06-06 19:34 to the Bangor Daily News
Thank you Mr. Speaker, Men and Women of the House. It is my honor as the elected Penobscot Nation Representative and a Vietnam Veteran to recognize Penobscot Nation tribal Elder Charles Norman Shay for his Courageous and Heroic service to his Country, his State and the Penobscot Nation.
Dr. Harald Prins and his wife Bunny McBride two highly respected Anthropologist and Maine Indian historians discovered Charles Shay’s story while doing background research on an Oral history project.
I want to convey to you what they found out about this extraordinary Penobscot Soldier and Elder.
Charles is a direct descendant of Chief Madockawando, Chief Joseph Orono, Lt. Governor John Neptune, and Joseph Nicolar, who was the longest-serving Penobscot Tribal Representative to the Maine Legislature in the late 19th century.
Mr. Shay is almost 83 years old.
On D-Day June 6th, 1944, (exactly 63 years ago today) he was a 19-year old combat medic in the 16th Regiment of the First Infantry Division (known as “The Big Red One”).
Soon after “H” Hour, the divisions 16th Regiment was fighting for it’s life on a strip of beach called Coleville-sur-mer. The beach was so congested with dead and dying , there was no room to land reinforcements. Col George Taylor Commander of the 16th Regiment told his men “Two kinds of people are staying on this beach! The dead and those who are going to be dead! Now lets get the hell out of here! The regiment sustained about 1,000 casualties on what has been referred to by combat historians as “the longest day.”
For his “unselfish heroism,” Charles Shay earned the Silver Star. His official citation states, Private Shay subordinated personal safety for the welfare of his comrades [… ,] plunging repeatedly into the treacherous sea and carrying critically wounded men to safety.”
After the Normandy invasion, he participated in the Huertgen Forest Battle and the Battle of the Bulge.
In early 1945, his regiment captured the only German bridge across the Rhine not yet destroyed. Serving in the Front-lines, his company was among the first to cross into the German heartland, where he was captured.
Having survived German POW camps, he briefly returned to the Penobscot Indian reservation in 1945.
Facing poverty and unemployment in Maine, Mr. Shay re-enlisted and served as a medic in the Military Police in occupied Austria and later as a combat medic in the Korean War, where he was promoted to Master Sergeant and was awarded the Bronze Star with two Oak Leaf clusters for valor.
Approximately 45,000 American Indians served in WW II, 52 of them earning the Silver Star for “gallantry in action.” Mr. Shay is among that select few. 98 Penobscots served in WW II, three of whom who were killed, Mr. Shay is among the last survivors of those veterans.
He is a member of what Tom Brokaw has called the Greatest Generation.
Mr. Shay has spent much of his adult life abroad, including a few decades in Vienna, where he lived with his Austrian wife Lilli.
About a dozen years ago, he returned to Indian Island where he inherited the house and tipi that belonged to his famous aunt Lucy Nicolar, aka Princess Watahwasso.
Mr. Shay like many veterans had never talked about his experiences in war. Perhaps for that reason, he has never been honored for his patriotic services to his country.
In doing background research for an oral history project with Mr. Shay, Drs. Prins and McBride found that as far as Maine history and public recognition is concerned, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy Veterans in WW I, WW II, and the Korean War represent a neglected and forgotten group.
It is therefore fitting for the State of Maine and the Penobscot Nation to officially honor this distinguished Penobscot Nation Elder, as he exemplifies great traditional values of honor, bravery, service, and unselfish sacrifice.
Mr. Charles Norman Shay
The Penobscot Nation and the State of Maine thank you for your distinguished and heroic service.