Andrew L. "Shad" Crockett, a retired postmaster and a highly decorated World War II infantryman who landed at Normandy on D-Day with the 29th Division, died Wednesday of heart failure at the Edward W. McGready Memorial Hospital in Crisfield. He was 85.
Mr. Crockett was born on Tangier Island, the son of a waterman and a homemaker.
After graduating from Crisfield High School, he moved to Baltimore and went to work in the Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Fairfield yard building Liberty ships.
In 1943, he enlisted in the Army and was sent to England aboard the RMS Queen Mary, where he joined the 115th Regiment of the Army's 29th Division.
Mr. Crockett was in the second wave of troops that landed at Omaha Beach on the morning of June 6, 1944, and then participated in the historic battle for St. Lo that liberated the Norman city from its four-year occupation by German forces.
Mr. Crockett, who later fought in the battle for Berlin, received three Bronze Stars and the Combat Infantryman's Badge.
After the war, Mr. Crockett remained an active reservist in the Maryland National Guard, attaining the rank of chief warrant officer when he retired in 1983.
He became a Maryland state trooper in 1950, and retired seven years later after being hit by a car that left him with a broken neck.
Mr. Crockett then worked as a manager and safety director for Eastern Freight Ways and later Service Trucking Co., until being named postmaster of the Crisfield Post Office in 1979. He retired in 1987.
Mr. Crockett returned to Normandy on the 50th anniversary with a group of fellow Crisfield D-Day veterans.
"I think the 50th anniversary triggered those memories and he started talking about it," said his son, Andrew L. Crockett Jr., a Vietnam veteran and Westover poultry farmer.
"He often said he made it through when so many didn't and had served in several squads that had been decimated," his son said. "He definitely had been in the thick of it."
Mr. Crockett recalled his father saying that he and a fellow infantryman who were in a building were able to single handedly destroy a German machine gun nest. Other memories included seeing Gens. Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton Jr.
When he returned to France for the first time since 1944, Mr. Crockett stayed with a host family in St. Lo because of a shortage of hotel space.
"Every D-Day since then, they have sent my father an e-mail saying, 'We're thinking of you today, and thank you and your fellow soldiers for what you did. We have our freedom because of what you did,' " said his daughter, Susan C. Twilley of Salisbury.
On the 60th D-Day anniversary, Mrs. Twilley accompanied her father to France for the ceremony.
"It was life changing for me being there with him. What really surprised me was the veneration of the people in Normandy. They treated those veterans GIs the way we treat rock stars," Mrs. Twilley said. "That people appreciated what he had done really touched him."
For father and daughter, visiting beaches and military cemeteries with other D-Day survivors was full of emotion.
"He talked about the pilot of his landing craft on the morning of June 6, who was determined, despite enemy fire, not to have his men jump into the sea with all of their equipment," Mrs. Twilley said. Outside of being briefly hospitalized for trench foot, Mr. Crockett went from Omaha Beach across Europe unscathed.
Mr. Crockett said his father was honored by Gov. Martin O'Malley along with other veterans at a ceremony in Annapolis in June.
"He was in frail health but he got there and shook the governor's hand," his son said.
Mr. Crockett was an active member of the 29th Division Association, the Maryland State Retired Troopers Association, and the American Legion post in Crisfield.
He was a lifelong fan of Big Band music and enjoyed dancing. He also enjoyed boating, gardening and golf.
His wife of 55 years, the former Nancy Webb, died in 2002.
Mr. Crockett was a member of Immanuel United Methodist Church, 206 W. Main St., Crisfield, where services will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
In addition to his son and daughter, survivors include two brothers, Lester Crockett of Crisfield and Stanford Crockett of Silver Spring; and two granddaughters.