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
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.”
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.
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
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.
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
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