Memorial Day is a most appropriate time to think about the sacrifices made on D-Day, the fateful evening in 1944 that the Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, to battle Hitler's Nazi forces and liberate mainland Europe. One of those soldiers, on his very first combat assignment, was a young Canadian named James Doohan, who later when on to great fame as Montgomery "Scotty" Scott on Star Trek: The Original Series. That bit of trivia — and the story that goes along with it — may be old news to longtime fans, but to the Star Trek newcomers out there, it's a tale that's well worth repeating.
"The sea was rough," Doohan recalled of his landing on Juno Beach that day, an anecdote included in his obituary, which the Associated Press ran on June 20, 2005. "We were more afraid of drowning than [we were of] the Germans."
The Canadians crossed a minefield laid for tanks; the soldiers weren't heavy enough to detonate the bombs, the AP story continued. At 11:30 that night, Doohan — a pilot and captain in the Royal Candian Artillery Regiment — was machine-gunned, taking six hits. One bullet blew off his middle right finger, four struck his leg and one hit him in the chest. A silver cigarette case stopped the bullet to the chest.
Throughout his acting career Doohan took measures to hide the missing finger, but it was occasionally visible to the camera, including in certain shots from Star Trek. He made no effort, however, to hide the missing finger during his decades of autograph signings and convention appearances.
So, this Memorial Day, we hope you'll join everyone at StarTrek.com in saluting Doohan, as well as all the soldiers who risked or gave their lives on that pivotal evening.