Shames was a member of the famed Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. His first combat jump was on D-Day when he parachuted into Normandy as part of Operation Overlord. He later volunteered for Operation Pegasus and joined Easy Company during Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge. He was recognized for his outstanding leadership and given a battlefield commission of Second Lieutenant, making him the first non-commissioned officer in the Third Battalion to get a commission in Normandy.
He was also the first soldier of the 101st to arrive at the Dachau concentration camp after it was liberated. Shames and his comrades from Easy Company entered Hitler’s bunker, the Eagle’s Nest, after the German surrender. They took a few bottles of cognac which were labeled for the dictator’s exclusive use; Shames served that cognac at his son’s Bar Mitzvah.
Historian Stephen Ambrose retold the story of Easy Company in Band of Brothers, published in 1992. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg created the HBO miniseries based on the book in 2001. The cinematic version of the story differs from that told by the military unit, but the film won an Emmy award nonetheless. Shames was portrayed by Joseph May.