Lowell servicemembers on D-Day

Today is the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the invasion of Normandy by the Allies. More than 2,500 Americans were killed that day, June 6, 1944, including several from Lowell. In the months that followed during the fight across France, many more were killed. Here are the stories of some of the soldiers from Lowell who gave their lives in that campaign:

John J. Shaughnessy was born in Lowell on October 16, 1917, the son of Edward and Anna O’Donnell of 1091 Gorham Street. He graduated from the Sacred Heart School and Lowell High School. On October 16, 1940 – his 23rd birthday – Shaughnessy registered for the draft at the Elks Club on Hurd Street. At the time, he was 5’11” tall, weighed 148 pounds, and had blue eyes and brown hair. He worked as a foreman at the Megowan-Educator Food Company on Jackson Street where the famous “Crax” crackers were produced.

Shaughnessy enlisted in the US Army on November 19, 1940 and was assigned to the First Infantry Division which was then based at Fort Devens. He entered the Army as a private, but eventually became an officer. In 1942, Shaughnessy landed in North Africa and was wounded in the fighting there.

By D-Day, Shaughnessy was a First Lieutenant and the executive officer of Company H of the 16th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division. On June 6, 1944, his regiment was in the first wave landing on the eastern part of Omaha Beach.

The opening sequence of the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan follows a company of US Army Rangers led by the character played by Tom Hanks landing on Omaha Beach. The Rangers were a small, specialized outfit and while they were indeed present that day, the bulk of the troops around them were from the 16th Infantry Regiment, including Lt. John Shaughnessy. The devastating casualties depicted in the movie reflected what happened that day. Among those killed in the landing was Lt. Shaughnessy.

Lt. Shaughnessy’s body was returned to Lowell and a funeral service was held at the Sacred Heart Church on December 9, 1947. He is buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery.

In 1957, the city named a newly built school on Gorham Street the John J. Shaughnessy Elementary School. Coincidentally, the school was adjacent to O’Donnell Playground which was named for John J. O’Donnell, a sailor who died during World War I. O’Donnell was Shaughnessy’s uncle and Shaughnessy was named for him.

In 1991, as part of the new school building program at that time, the original Shaughnessy School was demolished and was replaced with a new school which still operates today.

May 27, 1944 – Paul J. Nadeau

Paul J. Nadeau was born in Lowell on July 5, 1921. His mother was Sylvia M. Nadeau and his father was Joseph A. Nadeau. Joseph died in 1933, his life shortened by injuries he sustained in a poisonous gas attack while serving in France with the 26th Division during World War I. When Paul registered for the draft on February 16, 1942, he was 20 years old, was living with his mother at 26 Fisher Street, and worked at Wannalancit Textile Company on Jackson Street. He enlisted in the US Army Air Corps on December 16, 1942, and was trained as an aerial gunner. He was assigned as a “waist gunner” to a B-17 heavy bomber of the 337th Bomb Squadron of the 96th Bomb Group in England. On his 21st mission while flying near Karlsruhe, Germany, another bomber in the formation collided with Nadeau’s aircraft and sliced it in half. Nadeau and five other members of the crew died in the collision while four of the crewmen parachuted to the ground where they were taken prisoner by the Germans. The Germans notified the International Red Cross of the status of the crew and that news eventually made it to their families. Mrs. Nadeau learned of her son’s fate on June 30, 1944. Besides his mother, Paul Nadeau was survived by a brother Alfred and sisters Rita Nadeau and Mrs. Pauline Gagnon. Nadeau’s body was eventually returned to the United States. He is buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Chelmsford. In 1947, the city of Lowell dedicated the intersection of West Sixth and Ennell Streets Paul Nadeau Square.

June 12, 1944 – Joseph J. Lachance

Joseph J. Lachance was born on August 7, 1908, in St-Boniface-de-Shawinigan, Quebec, Canada. His parents, Ferdinand “Frank” Lachance and Anna Lachance moved to Lowell with Joseph and their two other sons and lived on Moody Street. Joseph was working in a shoe factory when World War II began. Although he had never become a US citizen, Joseph enlisted in the US Army on September 29, 1942. He was killed in action in France on June 12, 1944. He is buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Chelmsford. On Memorial Day in 1948, the city of Lowell dedicated the intersection of Merrimack and Suffolk streets Joseph Lachance Square.

June 14, 1944 – Alphege L. Laporte

Alphage L. Laporte was born in Lowell in 1922. When World War II began he was working in a textile mill in Lowell. He enlisted in the US Army on October 27, 1942, and was assigned to Company E, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. His company landed on Utah Beach on D-Day and was involved in heavy fighting over the next few weeks. In this fighting, Private Laporte was severely wounded and died of his wounds on June 14, 1944. He is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery. In 1947, the city of Lowell dedicated the intersection of West Fourth and Albion streets Alphege Laporte Square.

June 15, 1944 – Edward Desmarais

Edward Desmarais was born in Lowell on May 25, 1911. In 1935, he married Doris Couilliard. They had a son, Edward Jr. When he registered for the draft in the fall of 1940, Edward worked for Canada Dry Ginger Ale in Chelmsford. He and his family lived at 40 Wilbur Street (which is off Stedman Street). Edward enlisted in the US Navy in 1943 and was assigned to a Construction Battalion (CB, better known as “Seabee”) which landed in Normandy on D-Day. He was killed in action on June 15, 1944, during the assault on the fortified port city of Cherbourg. He is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery. His name is included on the Middlesex Village World War II Memorial at Hadley Field.

July 13, 1944 – Robert M. Gauthier

Robert M. Gauthier was born in Lowell, the son of Fred and Anne Gauthier of 24 South Walker Street. Robert enlisted in the Massachusetts Army National guard in January 1941. He was commissioned as a lieutenant and assigned to the 34th Field Artillery Battalion of the 9th Infantry Division. He saw combat in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. His unit landed on Utah Beach on D-Day. He was killed in action during the attack on the fortified port city of Cherbourg. He is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery. In 1947, the city of Lowell dedicated the intersection of Pine and Liberty streets Robert Gauthier Square.

July 30, 1944 – Armand Masse

Armand Masse was born in Montreal on June 23, 1920. He and his family moved to Lowell. When he registered for the draft in the summer of 1941, he lived with his mother, Mary Masse, at 181 Mt. Vernon Street and worked as a spinner at the Pacific Mills in Lawrence. He enlisted in the US Army on May 4, 1942, and was assigned to Company I, 32nd Armored Infantry, 3rd Armored Division. His unit came ashore in Normandy about a week after D-Day but it then led the breakout from Normandy and was engaged in heavy fighting throughout the summer. Armand Masse was killed in action on July 30, 1944. His body was returned to the United States in 1948 and he was buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery. In 1964, the city of Lowell dedicated the intersection of Branch and Coral streets Armand Masse Square.

4 Responses to Lowell servicemembers on D-Day

  1. David Daniel says:

    Thank you for sharing this part of Lowell’s (and the U.S.’s) history. The sacrifice made by young men and women, and their families, is extraordinary, and they are deserving of our remembrance.

  2. Ed DeJesus says:


    Thank you for posting this anniversary D-Day tribute to the Lowellians who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. While this is another sad chapter in your project to remember all those heroes, it also sheds light on why the servicemen have parks, schools, squares, and streets named on their behalf.

    You, sir, are not only a veteran and city historian but also a good man on a good mission.

    Carry on.

  3. Steve O'Connor says:

    It’s interesting and inspiring to hear the stories behind the names we pass every day. I’ve been remembering the late Jack Flood, who was a participant in the D Day invasion. I once asked him if he had seen the movie Saving Private Ryan. He said, “No, Okie, I haven’t seen it, and I’m not going to. That’s one day I don’t want to remember.”

  4. Szifra Birke says:

    Thank you for all your work to keep these people and their memories alive, Dick.

    As a human, and maybe especially as the daughter of Holocaust survivors, I am profoundly grateful to the young men and women who served to help preserve our democracy.

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