MAPLE BLUFF, Wis. — Nearly seven decades after flying his final combat mission in the European Theater of Operations, retired Lt. Col. Edward Tyre of Brookfield, Wis., received France's highest military decoration — the French Legion of Honor — during an April 6 ceremony at the Executive Residence.
Maj. Gen. Donald P. Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin (left) and retired Navy Capt. Timothy Tyre join in a standing ovation for retired Lt. Col. Edward Tyre during a French Legion of Honor ceremony on April 6, 2013 at the Executive Residence in Maple Bluff, Wis. Lt. Col. Tyre received the French award for his role in one of the four main campaigns to liberate France during World War II. (Wisconsin National Guard photo by Tech Sgt. Sarah Franzen)
"When Lt. Col. Tyre graduated high school in 1942, our nation was still reeling from the deadly attack at Pearl Harbor and Europe was under Nazi rule," said Maj. Gen. Donald P. Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin. "Evil was threatening to extinguish freedom and it was difficult to imagine reversing the fortunes of the Third Reich and the Japanese Empire. However, men like Lt. Col. Tyre — who comprise our greatest generation — answered the call and saved the world."
Tyre, now 88, enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942. Deployed to the European Theater in 1944 with the 17th Bomb Group, he flew 50 combat missions from October 1944 to April 1945. Those missions included fierce fighting over the Poe Valley in northern Italy as well as northern France and Germany, where his group encountered German jet fighters.
"There were losses — freedom does not come free," Dunbar remarked. "Fortunately, men like Lt. Col. Tyre and the 17th Bomb Group were willing to fly ever into danger, and fight and win."
Paul Graham, general consul of France in Chicago, presented the Legion of Honor to Tyre.
"You wanted France to be free, and you fought to liberate its people," Graham said. "What higher deed exists than yours?"
Tyre — already the recipient of the Air Medal with eight oak leaf clusters, European Theater Campaign Medal with four battle stars and a distinguished unit citation — expressed much gratitude upon receiving the Legion of Honor.
"I'm just sorry most of my comrades are gone, either lost in battles for France during the war or age having taken its toll," Tyre said. "I accept this award with humility and pride, in all our names."
Tyre's family and friends gave him a standing ovation.
The Legion of Honor — the equivalent to the U.S. Medal of Honor — was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 and is divided into five degrees, of which Tyre received the Chevalier, or Knight. In recent years the French government has been awarding the Legion of Honor to American World War II veterans who helped liberate France. To be eligible, recipients must have fought in at least one of the four main campaigns to liberate France — Normandy, Provence, Ardennes or Northern France.
Tyre served in the Air Force Reserve following World War II, and retired in 1972 with 26 years of commissioned service. He joins a distinct group of Legion of Honor recipients that includes Gen. Douglas MacArthur, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Secretary of State Colin Powell.
By Wisconsin National Guard Tech Sgt. Sarah Franzen
Provided through DVIDS
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