MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - Seventy years ago on June 6, 1944, U.S. and French forces led an invasion on German-occupied Western Europe in the invasion of Normandy, which led to the restoration of the French Republic and contributed to the victory of the Allies in the war.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy opened eligibility to all U.S. veterans who fought on French territory in any of four major campaigns during World War II to be awarded the Legion D'Honneur, the highest decoration in France.
In commemoration of the actions of four Florida World War II veterans, French nationals assigned to the U.S. Central Command on MacDill Air Force Base awarded each veteran with the French Legion D'Honneur during a French National Day celebration July 14, 2014.
The French Legion D'Honneur, the highest decoration in France, lies on a table at a French National Day celebration in Tampa, Florida, July 14, 2014. Four World War II veterans received the medal for their service during the war. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ned T. Johnston)
In attendance were more than 200 military members from U.S., French and coalition forces, World War II veterans and their family members.
Key note speaker for the event was French army Brig. Gen. Bernard Commins, CENTCOM French senior national representative.
“It is my honor to award these gentlemen who came to help our country when it was under duress,” said Commins. “The fact that 70 years later we can celebrate these men is proof of the long lasting friendship between our countries.”
Along with the French medal, the World War II veterans received a letter of congratulations from the French Consul in Miami, Florida, a medallion filled with sand from Omaha Beach, and a French detachment coin.
Army Pfc. Philip Melici was a pipeline patrolman and served for 23 months in England, France, Belgium and Holland. He landed on beaches at Normandy and constructed gasoline storage tanks while under fire and pumped gasoline from ship tanks to the constructed storage tanks. Melici laid four and six-inch pipes up to the front lines and pumped fuel to gasoline depots. Melici was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four service stars, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Honorable Service Lapel Button.
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Vincent Dematteo was a radioman assigned to USS Maloy and served in Normandy and Omaha Beach. His actions contributed to the shooting down of a German bomber. Dematteo was awarded the American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two service stars.
Army Sgt. Orman Feltz was a cook assigned to the 3rd Army Headquarters. He took part in the Battle of France, Normandy, the Battle for Brittany, and the push across France. Feltz was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal.
Army Capt. Robert Staib was assigned to the 524th Signal Battalion and the Tactical Air Command. He served in Normandy, Ardennes, Central Europe, Northern Europe and Rhineland. Staib was wounded in action in Belgium on Dec. 28, 1944. Staib was awarded the World War II Victory Medal, a Purple Heart, the European-African-Middle Eastern with six service stars, and the Meritorious Service Medal.
More photos available in frame below
By U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Ned T. Johnston
Provided through DVIDS
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