Of Albert Shaw's seven-member mortar squad, only one man returned from World War II unscathed.
"The one goof-off among us," said Shaw, 83, of Martinez. "The smartest one. The biggest goof-off was the only one that never got a scratch (while three members of the original crew were killed)."
Shaw joined the Army at age 18. After 11 weeks' training, he joined the 69th Infantry Division on Normandy Beach on June 8, 1944, only two days after D-Day.
"That's the only place I've ever seen human bodies stacked like cord wood," Shaw said. "It is a miracle to go through what we went through and come out alive."
Despite the fears and stresses of wartime situations, he and his comrades distracted themselves with jokes, stories and any kind of fun they could devise.
"You had to find something to divert your mind from what was going on daily," Shaw said, "or it would have driven you crazy."
Shaw said his unit moved from France into Germany and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, where he hauled wounded men off the battlefield all night.
Two days before the Germans surrendered, Shaw said, a piece of shrapnel crushed four fingers, yet he moved on with his unit to meet the Russian army at the Elbe River the next day.
On April 25, 1945, in Torguau, Germany, the Russian and American troops celebrated the end of the war together.
"It was a big-time party," Shaw said. "They celebrated for about a week."
Shaw left the Army after the war and later retired from Exxon.
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