Native Americans' D-Day stories come to lightBreaking News
tags: Native American history, D-Day, D-Day 75
Charles Norman Shay is one of the few remaining US veterans of World War II, but as a Native American the story of his people's courage and sacrifice on the battlefield is little known.
Seventy-five years ago Shay was a 19-year-old military nurse on Omaha Beach, the bloodiest of the five Normandy sites picked for the D-Day landings.
Nearly 500 Native Americans fought alongside Allied soldiers to dislodge German forces from the French coast, marking the start of France's liberation from its Nazi occupiers.
Some of them didn't even have the right to vote in their home state, but decades later, their stories are finally coming to light.
After several years of discreet spiritual ceremonies with traditional garb, feathers and smoke, the first official Native American commemoration was held on Utah Beach in 2014.
It honoured 14 Comanche "code talkers" who worked in their indigenous language, unintelligible to Germans or Japanese.
On Wednesday 80 tribe members are expected to attend another Native American commemoration on Omaha Beach.
- 'Every man for himself' -
In 2017, Shay returned to the spot where he saved lives as a young nurse for the dedication of a granite sculpture of a turtle, a symbol of longevity and wisdom.
At nearly 95, Shay is thought to be the last surviving Native American who participated in the D-Day landings, when his infantry division, called the "Big Red One" after the number on its insignia, was one of the first to hit the water.
He watched as friends fell from their boat, shot down by German gunfire. Others jumped into the sea but were dragged under the water by their heavy equipment.
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