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
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
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.
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