9 - Napoleon Charles "Tiby" Pelletier (1913 - 1994)

Left: circa Summer 1915 - Right: with Irene - Aug 1944
(photos courtesy of Benoit J. Shoja)


Parents: Napoleon Pelkey - Fabiola Renaud

Born: 28 May 1913 - Concord, NH
Died: 8 Nov 1994 - Veterans Administration Medical Center, Salem, VA

Married:
1- 21 Sep 1940 - Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church, Rochester, NH
Spouse: Irene Mary (Marie-Irene) Lévesque (1 Jul 1911 - 30 Dec 1992)

Children:
Normand Charles (1946 - )
Richard Maurice (1948 - )
Yvette Marion (1950 - )
Marie-Rose (1952 - 1952)
Marie-Diane (1953 - )
Raymond (1953 - 1953)

2- 8 Jun 1973 - Mesa, AZ
Spouse: Virginia E. Brady Phillippy


The following was submitted by Napoléon's grandson, Ben Shoja:

Napoleon Pelletier, known as "Tiby" as well as "Nap", was born in Concord, New Hampshire, in 1913, his father a harness-maker, his mother a housewife.

In 1940 he wed Irene Levesque, and a year later they moved to Nashua, her hometown. That October, Nap began work at the Nashua Manufacturing Company, fabricating woolen army blankets; it was humdrum work, but it meant a paycheck. Some two years later he was called up for military service, and on March 4, 1944, at the age of 30, he was inducted into the Army at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. Within the month Nap was at Fort McClellan, Alabama, to undergo seventeen weeks of basic training.

There were many rigorous aspects to “basic”. There were the obstacle courses, for instance, where a trainee had to navigate a 1,500-foot course in three and a half minutes while wearing a thirty-pound pack and carrying a rifle. But a still more grueling exercise was the forced march: twenty-five miles straight, full equipment, no stopping. If a man stopped anywhere, for any reason, he had to start back at the beginning. One time, before such a march, Nap had the misfortune of spraining his ankle. He knew he could not get out of the hike, and he knew the penalty for faltering; stubborn and determined to the last, he went to the medic and had his ankle wrapped as tightly as possible. That next day he completed the march in time with everyone else, hobbling, swollen ankle and all.

In July, Nap completed basic training. It had left a sour taste in his mouth, and he had an unfavorable opinion of the instruction he had received, as did many other soldiers. Nap felt unprepared for war, that the Army had done little more than hand him a rifle to make him an infantryman. He did not care that the Army needed to replace lost men; he felt it cared more for equipment than for a man's life.

At the end of August, after much hurrying around and being made to wait, Nap shipped out of New York City aboard the H.M.S. Queen Mary. He spent six days at sea, living in cramped, hot, dank spaces with 16,000 other men; with so many bodies, all confined to the ship's hull, the ship's ventilation system quickly failed. Nap went a week smelling the armpits and asses of some 16,000 men before finally landing in Glasgow, Scotland. He went from there to southern England by train, and from there he crossed the Channel, landing at Omaha Beach on or about September 1, 1944.

From Normandy Nap traveled inland to one of the many replacement depots, or “repo-depots”, where the Army assigned him to a light-weapons infantry unit: L Company, 109th Regiment, 28th Division. He was primarily an M-1 rifleman, a sharpshooter, but knew equally well how to handle a 60-millimeter mortar and a .30-calibre machine gun as well. His mortar fire was so accurate, in fact, that at a full half-mile away from an enemy-occupied building, he could drop his shells right down its chimney. After this, any surviving German soldiers filed out of the ruins with their hands in the air.

Nap spent a full year overseas, seeing Europe at its worst; he finally came out a corporal. He fought his way across France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany, trudging through cold, sloppy mud the autumn of 1944 in the Hurtgen Forest, fighting foe and frostbite all that winter in the Ardennes and in the Vosges Mountains. He was shot at, shelled, and bombed constantly, nearly being killed countless times. Nap was wounded in Germany on February 2, 1945, his left cheek ripped from mouth to ear by shrapnel fragments. He witnessed death, destruction, and suffering - at one point finding a delirious man in a field no longer aware of how long he had been there, oblivious to the maggots infesting his wounds - all this the result of human doing.

But Nap was not just a witness to abomination. He too was a cause. He was made to kill others, and as a combat rifleman he saw his human targets. He knew that when a man fell, it was because he had shot him. He had to live with these memories well after he had left Europe and the Army behind him.

In July 1945, the Army shipped Nap home to America, and on January 14, 1946, they discharged him. When he left Fort Devens for the last time, Nap took off his dog tags, dropped them to the ground, and crushed them with the heel of his G.I. boot.

After the War, Nap and Irene started a family, having two sons and two daughters, and raised them in Nashua. Nap worked as a polisher at the Nashua Brass Company for a decade after the War, and later he was a maintenance man for the Nashua School System; he retired to Arizona in 1969.

Nap rarely spoke about the War to his wife, children, or family. On those occasions when he did, however, he told harmless little tales, keeping the truly unpleasant stories to himself, which undoubtedly accounts for their scarcity. Like many who fought the “Good War,” Nap knew he had a job to do, and he did it. He never glorified his participation in such decisive operations as the Hurtgen or Ardennes battles, and when he did speak of his experiences, he was humble and very matter-of-fact. By the end of his life, it seems, Nap had come to terms with what had happened fifty years before. He had witnessed and overcome much since then, and the experiences from 1944 to 1946 were just another part of his life.

He died at the Veterans Administration Medical Center of Salem, Virginia, in 1994 at the age of eighty-one, and donated his body to science for medical research.