This is an articles of a veteran who served in three wars and is the recipient of the Silver Star medal and the French Legion of Honor.
World War II veteran shares story of service in three wars
Though mid-Missouri veteran Lloyd Cain was only 16 years old when his father passed away, he recalls overhearing some of the stories of his service during the First World War.
“My father’s unit was awarded the French Croix de Guerre,” Cain noted.
Created by the French government in 1915, the military decoration recognizes acts of bravery in the face of the enemy.
And years later, during the Second World War, Cain’s own service in support of the liberation of France would earn him his own piece of recognition from the French Republic.
Growing up in the community of Switz City, Ind., Cain began attending Purdue University in 1941 on an agricultural scholarship.
He finished two years of college and—after enlisting in the Army—was called to active duty in 1943. Anxious to do his part to support the war effort, Cain decided attend the anti-aircraft school because it was the first training opportunity available.
“I was ready to get on the move and do something,” he stated.
Training at several stateside locations, Cain received additional instruction as an infantryman and was eventually assigned to the 100th Division at Ft. Bragg, N.C., in September 1944. A month later he found himself on a troop ship bound for service in the Europe.
While involved in several intense and dangerous skirmishes throughout the war, one memory that poignantly resonates with the veteran is of an incident occuring near Hottviller, France.
It was December 1944, and Hitler was making a final attempt to push American forces back into France. According to Cain, American and German forces were dug in on opposing sides along the Maginot Line—a string of fortifications and obstacles constructed by France along their borders with Germany and Italy.
“I was sent out beyond our line,” Cain stated, “to observe the (enemy) activity and direct our mortar fire against their emplacements.”
According to the veteran, the Germans had sent out their own observers and were devising their own plans for an attack.
Leaving the relative safety of his own defensive position, Cain would move forward, identify the enemy location and fire white phosphorous rounds in an effort to clear the Germans out of their foxholes. His actions often left him exposed to enemy mortar fire and he would often have to retreat back toward the American line.
After four incursions into German-held territory, Cain’s actions were able to effectively halt the German advance.
In recognition of his selfless and courageous efforts, he was awarded the Silver Star—the third-highest U.S. combat decoration.
A few months later, in May 1945, Cain received another profound distinction when he was given a battlefield commission, resulting in a promotion to the rank of second lieutenant.
As stated in the order awarding the commission, Cain was able to lead a squad of men in a successful attack against strong enemy resistance in Hagenbach, Germany, without suffering a single American casualty.
Remaining in Europe until November 1947, the battle-hardened veteran was reassigned to Ft. Dix, N.J., where he would serve as the training officer in almost every company on post.
Cain made the decision to remain in the Army and in 1952 received orders to deploy in support of the Korean War. Assigned as a heavy mortar commander for the 40th Infantry Division, 224th Infantry Regiment, he received a Purple Heart for minor injuries incurred as the result of a mortar blast.
Cain was given yet another opportunity to serve in a combat theater whenhe deployed to Vietnam in 1965 to serve a one-year stint as the senior army advisor to the commandant of the Army Infantry School in Saigon.
“We took enlisted men from the Vietamese military and trained them to be officers,” Cain stated, “We demonstrated how an army should be structured to operate most effectively and efficiently.”
During the final three years of his career, he served as the senior army advisor with the Missouri National Guard Headquarters in Jefferson City. In 1976, he retired from the miliary as a colonel with 33 years of service.
While summarizing his well-decorated and extensive military career, Cain notes that although he experienced service during several wars, the Second World War had the most profound impact in forging his leadership qualities.
“I learned the basic skills during (World War II) that are essential in life and translate into leadership and management,” Cain remarked. “Having served as an enlisted man at the beginning of my career also helped me gain the respect of my subordinates…they knew I had been in the foxholes with them.”
To honor the sacrifices made in support of the liberation of France, Cain was awarded the French Legion of Honor Medal in January 2012. As the country’s highest distinction, the medal was founded by Napoleon and can be awarded to American veterans of the Second World War in recognition of bravery and honor demonstrated in service to France.
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
Jeremy P. Ämick
Public Affairs Officer
Silver Star Families of America
Cell: (573) 230-7456