Legion of Honor
French President Nicolas Sarkozy paid a brief sentimental stop Nov. 6 at the French ambassador’s residence in the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington to pin the Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur, his nation’s highest decoration, on the chests of seven American soldiers from World War II, to whom he delivered “the gratitude of a grateful nation.”
“If there is peace today in Europe,” he said, “it is because of you.”
The French president, who sometimes wears his admiration for America on his well-tailored sleeve, told them: “You did your duty, and we will never forget what you did for France.”
The seven included Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii, an American of Japanese ancestry, and Mr. Sarkozy noted that he was a leader of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, made up only of JapaneseAmericans, who had been uprooted from their homes and sent to internment camps in California, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming and Arkansas.
Each of the other men — James Hill of Elora, Tenn.; John Kerner of San Francisco; Henry Langrehr of Clinton, Iowa; Bernard Rader of Freeport, N.Y.; Charles Shay of Old Town, Maine; and George Thompson of Milton, Mass. — got not only a medal, but also the traditional kiss on both cheeks. But it was only an air kiss. And then they joined their families and a few friends for a glass of champagne. Nothing domestic, naturally.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Nov. 6 at the French Embassy in Washington awarded George Thompson of Milton, Mass. and six other U.S. World War II veterans France’s highest decoration, the Legion d’honneur.