Many thank you to Ed Shames to have answered quite my questions around a good glass of beer to Bastogne in June, 2008. Thanks to Pascal to have played the translators this occasion!


      <= Lt. Edward Shames - 1945

Edward Shames - 2008 =>


Edward G Shames was born on June 13th, 1922 in Norfolk in Virginia. Of Russian origin and Jewish tradition, his father is Moldavian and his mother is Byelorussian (Minsk) Ed Shames has to work very young. Indeed, in 1927, hardly 5-year-old, his dad dies. His mother raises only these 4 children, 2 sons and a girl. Ed Shames is their last child. He is at present the last survivor.

Edward Shames receives a very strict education! Be always the best, be helpful be appropriate and honest, to respect the others and always to make everything to pay the debts as quickly as possible, here is the big principles which his mom inculcates him. Ed Shames keeps since all this time this discipline.

" Even to Bastogne, in spite of the cold, I shaved myself quite days. To be always clean, his trunk the enemy, he believes that you are the best. "

" Even today, I change shirt everything in daytime! "

Norfolk being in this time the biggest military base to the world including the army, the Navy, Marine, US Coast Guards they have never had to suffer from the poverty consecutive to the great depression of 1929, they were poor but have they to eat always.

" Everybody worked, have had not a lot of money, but one always had of the food. "

In September, 1942, Edward Shames joins the army.

" The call under flags arrived of the HQ of the army situated to Fort Monroe in Virginia where the 506th was create. They looked for volunteers with certain attitude. The country needed a shock troop, something to restore the morale after the attack of Pearl Harbor and Corregidor. They decided to form a unity of elite from the best so physically as mentally. "

Ed Shames joins the army to Petersburg in Virginia had Fort Lee. (Current Camp Lee) He joins the company I of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment at the age of 19.

From the beginning, Ed Shames wants to become an officer, but he started as simple Private.

" In this time, a type which made a commitment in the army at time when Private could stay there 20 years and rereleased Private First Class from it or at the most Corporal. The army selected the best in what could existed within the armed to form our executive to teach us how to hold us, how to greet, etc. … "

Then, Ed Shames leaves fORT Lee for Toccoa in Georgie. The training received over there was the hardest never undergone by matter that it unity. There were 7000 recruits to form a regiment of 2500 to 2700 men.

" My first memory is the Mountain Currahee outside of Toccoa. Every morning, we had to climb and get down again the mountain at a run. This test has already eliminated a heap of recruit. "

Throughout 16 hard weeks crossed to Toccoa, there was always too much man. For still there "eliminated", the unity party on foot to Fort Benning place where would take place the continuation of the training and especially the training to become a true parachutist.

" People of Fort Benning considered as the elite of the army and the lads waited for us! One of the first things which they made for our arrived were to make us run with all our equipment around the camp for 3 hours! Later, they told us to stop. We answered them: oh not, we do not want to stop, we continue! " Soon it is them who asked us to stop us. "

Afterward, Ed Shames followed the training in the jump of the towers 60 metres high which feigned a parachute jumping. The trainers invented a heap of thing to frighten the new recruits. But Ed Shames survived it. And then the moment of the true jump came.

" 98 % of all these guys never have took the plane. Someone of them refused to jump. There was a deal about the first jumps. If you refused to rise in the plane for your first jump, you were sent back by the unity. We cannot be paratrooper if we do not jump of a plane. If you refused to jump while you are in the plane, you had 6 months of guardhouse because you had wasted the money of the government. In fact, the 1st jump, you make him because you do not know what waits for you if you not made not and the second you him made because you do not know what waits for you if you not made not! And so he practised. "

Ed Shames as most of his companions made two first jump the same day and three others the second. After these 5 jumps, he became officially paratrooper, he received his patent and his wings.

After Fort Benning, Ed Shames is sent to the Camp Mackall in North Carolina to do an advanced training course of infantry there and then, it is the last great journey for England, in the beginning of September, 1943.

In England, Ed Shames was named Staff Sergeant and an officer of operation for the battalion. He conceived and to learn all the details to prepare the missions of the 3rd Battalion in Normandy for then briefed every platoon, every man and every company. It did without the end of September on June 5th, 1944, the night before the D-day.

" But it followed in no way the same road. The type in front of me, in C-47 fell in front of the door. I have to help the him to get up and to go out. They completely scattered us. I jumped in 10 km of the place planned and I ended on a barn of a factory with milk with cows. I did not know where I was while I was supposed to know everything. Fortunately, during the flight we had a tracer plane which sent us both or three minutes a signal to say to us where to go. Therefore, I have few to turn and to take my group of 18 men towards our objective who were two bridges to Brevands to some kilometres of Carentan leading inside coast.

We had the mission to hold these bridges to prevent the Germans from bringing reinforcements on the beaches of landings. "

Hardly on the ground, Ed Shames is touched the face by a ball which deprives him a piece of its nose. (What cost him an operation of plastic surgery after the war) once in bridges it had a lot of exchange of firing with the Germans. But finally, bridges were destroyed, not by the Germans, but by the US Air Force who did not know that men were there. In Normandy, Ed Shames was named 2nd Lieutenant.

" We were in a sector close to Carentan. I was a sergeant of operation. Several officers had been killed during their jumps and I really made the work of an officer of high rank. Our commander sent to me to recognition with my men around our positions and to pass on by radio the information. Had we an American unity in our right? We had lost so men to clean its hedges! Shells fell everything around us, the artillery was wild, until the moment when he had a calm. I observed the sector on the left. There were men over there. I supposed that it was the Company a hour. Then, I observed the right sector, on the other side of the road. There were many hedges. It is not easy to see something. The sun was high, it was warm. I looked for the other company which was supposed to be there. But I saw nobody. We thus had an exposed side.

It was my birthday, and everything in what what I thought it was the words: " born on June 13th - death on June 13th ". I withdrew and wondered a radio communication with the HQ of the battalion. I said: "spend I an officer!" I had the Colonel Sink

I said: "Sir, here the Sergeant Shames, there is nobody on our right side!" Sink answered: " Shames, do you know about what devil do you speak? "

I bestrode a bicycle and in two time I was in the HQ and I showed the place on a map. He made for me returned to the place with the Colonel Charlie Chase. We crossed again the road and I said: " it is here whom I was. " He was very amazed, he thought of finding the Company F. there "

Colonel Sink pulled a company out of the reserves and sent it up right. That night, I got a call to come to Colonel Sink’s headquarters right away. So I ran over there, and they said, “Colonel Sink wants to see you”.

I went to him and said, “Colonel Sink, Sergeant Shames reporting as ordered, sir.”

He told me, “Shames, you are now a lieutenant.”

I thought I was hearing things.

 He said “Goddamn it, Shames, can’t you hear ?”

”Yes, sir!” I replied.

Sink said, “You are now a lieutenant. I’ve already cleared it with the 101st headquarters. “He added, “now, we can’t formally commission you: we have to go through all the paperwork – it’s a formality that has to wait until we get back to England. When we get back to England, everyone is going to know you are now a lieutenant.”

Ed Shames thus crossed of Staff Sergeant in 2nd Lieutenant on June 13th, 1944, but he knew in no way that she had to be her role. Shames returned towards his men to say to them, He found the Lieutenant John Martin there. As he had no experience for commander, John Martin made of him his First Sergeant till the end of the campaign of Normandy, for 1 week.

And it was in his return in England when he was officially named 2nd Lieutenant.

His passage to the rank of officer was not made without grating of teeth, he had to stay in service in England to wait for his official appointment of this fact he was not able to take his permission before the jump on the Holland.

He had to exchange his equipments for those of an officer, he notably received a new helmet with a vertical bar behind, a Colt 45 but succeeds after some palaver to keep his rifle Garand rather than the rifle M1 which it considered as a peashooter.

" I did not want of a peashooter. I was told that it was not statutory, but I wanted to know nothing. "

His affectation to a superior officer was not made free from problems either, he would have of the being associated with the Captain Nixon but he refused to work with an alcoholic and he also refused to work with the Chief warrant officer Strayer, he hated him on the base but it was the worse even after Normandy when that he seen by the own eyes that Strayer was a wimp.


On September 17th, 1944, Ed Shames participates in the operation Market Garden, in Holland. He contacted the leader of the resistance, Jan Van Hooijk who knew the existence of a telephone line connecting Eindhoven with Tilsburg. It was thus sent to civilian 3 and a half weeks with Jan behind the German lines to Tilburg to spy and give information to the Colonel Sink via the subterranean line, Tilburg being a big center of gathering of the German army in the region of which notably many of panzers. 

" There was a line buried unknown of the Germans. I was in contact with the Colonel Sink and I passed on to him the information on the movements of the Germans. "

Jan became one of his best friends and already came by 3x to cross holidays at Ed.

In his return, the 506th was sent to the sector of " the island ".

At night from 22 till 23 October 1944, when he learnt that a mission of rescue of 125 English parachutists and a handle of resistant Dutchman and American fighters clamped on the other side of the Rhine was going to have risen but when the English Sergeant who made the briefing wanted only non-commissioned officers he went volunteer, the Englishman asked him if he was on that as officer he wanted to participate in this mission.

" He took only soldiers and non-commissioned officers until the rank of Sergeant. I raised my arm to know why no officers. And I went volunteers. "  

The following moment he was rowing in a boat.

Nevertheless, the operation Market Garden was a fiasco. The 506th captured quite bridges and opened the road to the British, but these did not arrive. During the campaign of Holland, Ed Shames was hurt in the left leg.

Of return in England he got ready with a big bundle of notes to go to permission to Paris when they were all messengers to hold the position of Bastogne.


Ed Shames joins Easy Company where he received the command of the 3rd platoon consisted of some renegades. His very first mission was to make a recognition to know where was the enemy.

 “ When we first got into Bastogne, Colonel Sink came up to me and said, “Shames, you go up the road an make contact and find out where the enemy is.” Strohl and McClung and I went down this road, and we saw vague shapes way off in the instance that looked kind of like haystacks, and we also heard this noise far off, and I told Strohl that it sounded like tanks to me, and that’s what it sounded like to him, too. We stayed there and waited until the fog lifted a little, and I then asked Strohl if the shapes still looked like haystacks to him, and he said no – they were tanks! We counted 19 tanks that the fog had camouflaged. We went back to report what we had seen.”

It was its first patrol and there will be the others.

" I was an officer who said, you and you, you come with me in patrol and not you and you, you leave patrol there. When you steer a patrol, you watch lookouts and to verify all the communications on the ground thus you know if the enemy is spent there and if he looks for you. It is simple but however it takes time to learn. You have to be an observer and make the good decisions to become a leader and if you are capable of communicating this "intelligence" with the others. "

" I remembers me of another patrol of observation for a night with this lad, Edward Stein. We were close, standing in a field, a transit of cold. It was the coldest day which I knew of all my life. It was so cold that I thought of taking one of my bulbs of morphine and of getting it all wrong to her in the leg to kill the pain. Then, a wooden brightness came of nowhere. It had to be a blow of mortar. We threw ourselves on the ground and we snuggled up under a cover. I asked Stein if he was hot. He answered me not, and I saw some blood poured by its leg. It was so cold that he had not even smelt as a wooden splinter had split him a vein of the leg. "

There also Ed played more that his officer's role, he collected the wounded persons with Rogers and Mc Lung and drove them in jeep up to the aid station of Bastogne.

During the campaign of the Ardennes, Ed Shames was hurt in the back by a brightness of shrapnel. He was looked after in Brussels where he made of the eye for the nurses.

Ed Shames considers himself fortunate to have to command the 3rd platoon. With his rank of 2nd Lieutenant he commanded a platoon, he was not an assistant of an officer, he had subordinate's role.

" I had the best of the groups. Darrell " Shifty " Powers, Earl McClung, James " Mo " Alley, Walter Gordon, Rod Strohl and Paul Rogers, every Sergeants, was responsible men. "

Rogers was his Sergeant and his hired man.

Ed Shames was a very hard commander, very severe, he is described in the series " Band of Brother " as a man who always owed shouted, but his platoon was the only one where he had there no dead man since it took the command.

" They also described a scene or I yelling on the men and the oher officers. Of course I yelled at them! I meant business. This is why I brought more men home than most of the officers in the 506th. I was the only second lieutenant in the regiment who was a platoon leader, and in contrast to the other officers in the 506th , they didn’t even relieve me once. I must have been doing something right. "

" We had least human losses in my platoon. I insisted so that we did things as perfectly as possible. My sergeants followed me. When you hurt things, you died. And if we lost least people, it is because of a lot of skill. But I’m sure that the men didn’t love me. I didn’t want hem to love me. I wanted them to respect me."

In spite of the extreme conditions he asked to his men to behave as soldier and to look like always true soldiers, a soldier who is allowed go does not feel well and do not can behave as him should him, he thus obliged his men to be lean and to shave themselves quite the same days in their foxholes.

From part his ascent since the military bottom of the ladder Ed always had an approach different from the other officers in the way he orders, there where the others chose volunteers to go there patrol chose him volunteers to accompany him in patrol.

It did not please the other officers who were often obliged to make as him (notably during the rescue in Holland).


The arrival of the regiment in Germany was rather hard for Ed Shames, after the discovery by Easy of the camp Annexe of Landsberg he was sent by the colonel Sink to recognition to the main camp of Dachau, what he saw there was so strong that he does not want to speak about it any more (he was of more Jewish) but he still sees the face of these people every time he falls asleep.

" I did not believe my eyes, I cannot tell what I saw there! It was incredible, impossible! "

He was the only officer of the 506th to go there.

His last memory of the war is its meeting with the Feld Marshal Kesselring:

" I was responsible for 3 roadblocks on the road of Munich. Strohl asked to see me because he needed me. There were cars of officials in the 1st dam held by the Sergeant Strohl and the passenger wanted to speak to an officer. I approached and I noticed that the type dressed as a clown was still armed. I said to Strohl: " Sergeant noticed you that this officer is still in ownership of his weapon? "

" Yes Lieutenant I am aware of it but this officer wants to return his weapon only to an officer of high rank "

on it I unsheathed my weapon and I have him on the head of the officer and I said to him:

" Speak you about Englishman Sir? "

"Yes" (the German spoke better about English than about me!!)

" You have 5 seconds to make me to me small Lieutenant otherwise I explode you the head "

the German officer hurried up to execute the order and take me his pistol of Czech manufacturing.

I asked him: " why have you not to Lüger Sir? "

" Because I to Lüger already jammed 2 x and I needed a reliable weapon "

I wanted to give them to Strohl who says to me that he did not deserve them. I kept them and I returned with in the United States. They are now in a shop window in my team of reconstruction. I knew after it was Feld Marshal Kesselring. "

After the end of the war against Germany the unity was parked in Austria and Ed met himself in August in Bar le Duc in France.

As soon as he learnt the news of the explosion of the second atom bomb on Nagazaki he did not wait for the official announcement of the end of the war to take his famous permission in Paris put back for one year.

He took with him 4 German weapons to make of the barter.

Hardly arrived at Paris he fell nose to nose with the colonel Sink who says to him that thanks to his number won points he was going to be demobilized and that he had to be the next day with Bar le Duc to take the train for Marseille.

Little in the kneading-machine he bribed the personal driver of the colonel Sink with 4 weapons so that that this returns him to the camp.

He wanted to return his faithful Garand.

" I wanted to to take back her with me, but to I was told that I could not return objects which belonged to the governments. I left it in the train which brought me in Marseille. "

He managed all the same to take back his Colt 45 and the pistol of Kesselring, he gave that this to its group of reconstruction in the USA which put it in evidence in a display.

His opinion of the German soldier is very clear-cut, Ed Shames had no contact direct.

" They could not think by them even. They were hard. But when they lost, they raised arms in the sky, Kamerad, kamerad, they made very fast. "

Contrary to the paras led to act and to manage only if necessary, the German soldiers were not individualistic and needed a leader to say to them what to make, them described them as being machines.

Concerning SS it is even more clear, these guys were criminals who thought only of killing and of killing.


1st Lt Ed Shames - 1945


After the war, Ed Shames stayed in the army where he finishes his career with the rank of Colonel. Its work of infiltration in Holland doubtless allowed him to work as government official in the average East in the years after war, it returned 49 times on the continent it served in Israel, Lebanon, Iraq and is considered as the others as a specialist of the average East what than he denies wildly seen that has the eyes nobody can understand this region of the world.

Today Ed Shames at the age of 86, him life in Virginia in 7 km of its roots of Norfolk and since the end of the war he helps to the organization of the meetings of former of the 506th. He got married and had two children, two sons.

He participated in numerous time in remembrances in Europe. Since the end of the war he already returned 4 times to Bastogne with his wife in tourist completes it off season to avoid the crowd and the first time was already in 1948, the city was still destroyed in this time.

" But now, I make old. I said to my wife, I become too old for that. She answered me: you do not become, you are old! I would come maybe for 65 years, if I am still alive, it is main thing. "




Ed Shames and me, June 21 2008 - Bastogne.