The Consul General of France in Atlanta, Mr Denis Barbet will be awarding the Legion of Honor to the 14 Second World War American vets, at the State Capitol at 1:30 p.m., on Thursday. The Legion Of Honor represents the highest honor in France and it was founded in 1802, by French military and political leader, Napoleon Bonaparte.
Among the 14 American vets to be awarded the Legion of Honor is Gerald M. Anderson of Pinehurst, who described the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944 as the worst day of his life. Gerald M. Anderson served in the Second World War with the 16th Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. His company arrived at the Omaha Beach, during the invasion, with the second wave that landed in Normandy. There were some 37 other soldiers with him in a landing craft and he was able to hear the German fire, mortars and artillery shells. “Guys were getting sick and throwing up all over the place,” he said.
He remembered that day and how close he was to losing his life. He was sat about 10 soldiers back when the ramp of the craft opened and German fire entered the craft from German automatic weapons. He found himself diving into the water, which was just waist-deep, and heading for a sandbar, which could be seen at about halfway to the shore. When he got there, he went to the edge of the water and hid behind debris, the WNCN reports.
The Second World War vet, went on to tell about the Americans and how they thought there will be bomb craters on the beaches of Normandy, after a bombing raid by the United States Air Force, but they couldn’t see any. “Whatever they did dropped inland,” said Anderson, recalling how thousands of Americans were left with no shelter on the beaches of Normandy, as German fire rained on them. The the United States troops gathered in small teams and tried to find their way off the beach and up the bluffs.
Anderson said that there was only one place they could have gone and that they were definitely not going to swim all the way back to England. When he was asked about how he survived the war, he said it was “just luck.”
“Down deep, Americans have something they never want to give up, and that’s freedom,” said Gerald M. Anderson of Pinehurst.