The place where artists and writers with Maine connections are showcased.

Posts from the ‘WWII – Dday’ category

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

Book by Charles Norman Shay
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In 2007 Charles Norman Shay went to Washington, DC, to receive the Legion of Honor medal from French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The medal has joined the others bestowed on him, including a Silver Star and four bronze battle stars from World War II and the Korean War, in his home on the Penobscot Indian Island Reservation in Old Town, Maine.

As a young Army medic he had been in the famed 1st Infantry Division that landed in the first wave on Omaha Beach, Normandy. He does not recall how many men he pulled from the water while bullets were streaming past him. “We’ve all had our individual experiences, and none are more dramatic than the next,” said Shay, characteristically modest.

Shay was a medic who saved many lives that D-day in 1944 when 3,000 Allied troops died and some 9,000 were injured or went missing. Shay repeatedly plunged into the treacherous sea and carried critically-wounded men to safety.

His book honors all who served but it was hard for him to recall the past while writing it.

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Princess Watahwaso’s teepe, an Indian Island landmark, preserved by D-Day Medal of honor recipient Charles Norman Shay

In Charles Shay’s book, Project Omaha Beach, he recounts his Maine Indian Heritage as well as war experiences.

The following article and photos appeared in the BDN, By Robert F. Bukaty, May 23, 2014:

You can’t help but notice the large red and white wooden teepee just after you cross the bridge over the Penobscot River onto Indian Island. It’s been a landmark since 1947. But by 1988, when Charles Norman Shay acquired the property which includes the house he now lives in, the buildings were badly dilapidated.

Back then, Shay and his wife, Lilli, were living in Vienna, Austria. He had recently retired from his job with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The couple had decided they would move to the Penobscot reservation where Charles had spent most of his youth. For several summers they traveled to Maine to make repairs to their house. When their new home was finally made livable, they focused their attention on the 24-foot-wide, 30-foot-tall teepee.

Shay’s aunt Lucy Nicolar Poolaw, and her husband, Bruce Poolaw, a Kiowa Indian from Oklahoma, built the teepee. The Poolaws met while traveling the country as performers, portraying “Indians” singing and dancing at Wild West shows. When the stock market crashed in 1929, they moved to Indian Island.

The Poolaws built the structure to be a novelty shop and called it Princess Watahwaso’s Teepee — Lucy’s stage name. A workshop was later annexed to the teepee and local Penobscot women were hired to weave baskets on site, making it a must-see stop for tourists. (Penobscots never used teepees — that was Bruce Poolaw’s influence from the Great Plains.) Read more

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

wCharles-Shay-book-cover-214x300

In 2007 Charles Norman Shay went to Washington, DC, to receive the Legion of Honor medal from French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The medal has joined the others bestowed on him, including a Silver Star and four bronze battle stars from World War II and the Korean War, in his home on the Penobscot Indian Island Reservation in Old Town, Maine.

As a young Army medic he had been in the famed 1st Infantry Division that landed in the first wave on Omaha Beach, Normandy. He does not recall how many men he pulled from the water while bullets were streaming past him. “We’ve all had our individual experiences, and none are more dramatic than the next,” said Shay, characteristically modest.

Shay was a medic who saved many lives that D-day in 1944 when 3,000 Allied troops died and some 9,000 were injured or went missing. Shay repeatedly plunged into the treacherous sea and carried critically-wounded men to safety. Read more