Charles McGillivary would be one of these lads. Born at Charlottetown in 1917, he'd get his basic education and then land a job as a merchant mariner, like so many others from coastal communities. By the age of 16 he was heading off to the US and at Boston meeting up with a brother who took him in for a while. Charles continued working with the merchant marines and as WW11 started he and his mates would find themselves in constant danger from enemy submarine attacks.
On June 6th 1944 Charles McGillivary (pictured on left) and some 43,500 other Americans stormed their portion of a 125 Km long waterfront in the Normandy Invasion to liberate Europe. Aiding the Allies of several countries in the battle would be 5,000 ships and landing craft, 50,000 vehicles and 11,000 planes.
The American sector was known as Omaha Beach and to its left, or east were Gold, Juno and Sword beaches. Utah was to the Americans' right or west. While Charles was fighting across the beaches at Omah, 14,000 of his fellow Canadians were pushing their way inland from the beach at Juno. Over the next 2 1/2 months the Allies would have loses of 210,000 men, and the enemy another 450,000.
Thus began an 8 week battle that would become the biggest battle the US Army EVER participated in. Over a million battled it out with 120,000 Germans being killed, captured, or becoming a POW or missing in action. More than 800 tanks were lost. On both sides! On the first day alone many platoons and companies of men lost not only their commanders but also very high numbers of troops.
The above pictures gives an indication of the horrible winter both sides also had to contend with. Men poorly equiped because supplies were running out were getting frostbite causing the need to evacute some 15,000 troops. Men reported being unable to see beyond 10 to 20 yards to their front or sides because of blinding snow storms.
Sgt Charles McMcgillivary became the commander of his company when his superiors were all lost to the enemy. There was talk of surrender when they almost ran out of ammunition. But then he had an idea. On earlier patrols he saw some of the locations of German machine gun nests, and felt that a sneak attack on some of them, one by one, might destroy them. So off he went on a one man mission knowing that if he failed his men would probably be captured or killed. Crawling from tree to tree he found not one, nor wo, or even three, but four enemy nests and killed some 36 top SS troops. At the last nest he took 8 shots in the left arm and it was such a mess that he had to pack snow around it to freeze what was left of his arm and prevent bleeding and certian death. He was later found and hauled off for medical attention and later shipped back to the US. For his bravery his adopted country awarded him with the top medal they could present to anyone...the Medal of Honor.
Note the left arm prosthesis and the medal of honor that President Harry S Truman just draped around his neck.
Charles remained in the Boston area, got married and raised a family. He worked in the treasurery Department for many years and even at one point was responsible for the inspection of Chritmas trees coming into the country... from a place called Canada.
As noted yesterday in this space, Charles served during the US Bi Centennial as the President of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society of the United States. It is believed that he was the only Non- American born to so serve.
He spent many years working with a long list of organizations representing the miltary including the AMVETS, the Legion Post, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and the Amputees Assication.
He even met this 29 year old fellow who was running for Congress. The picture was probably taken on 9 October 1945 during the World Series at Fenway Park between St Louis and Boston. (The Cardinals took the series.) In this picture, future President JFK has just presented Charles with the game ball.
In the shadows of Fenway today is a park named in Honor of PEI born Charles McGillivary. At Braintree MA. and Boston there are buildings and an armouries named in his honour.
It would be nice to see a federal building or structure of some type, perhaps a school named after Charles back home at Charlottetown someday.