Japanese-American World War Two veterans receive Legion of Honor

Japanese-American veterans who took part in the liberation of France during World War Two are to receive the Legion of Honor from the French government.

The Legion of Honor is the highest accolade a soldier can receive in France.

Three ceremonies are taking place in January. More than 25 veterans from the 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team will receive the medal in Honolulu, while five veterans will receive their medals in Kona and 18 veterans in Maui.

The ceremonies will be conducted by France’s consul general who is based in San Francisco.

All of the veterans served in one of the campaigns to liberate France in 1944-45.

The liberation of France began in June 1944 with the D-Day landings in Normandy, northern France. It was the biggest sea to land invasion the world had ever known and started the recapturing of German-occupied Europe.

By August, the Allied forces were taking France in a three-pronged attack. In the north was the British 21st Army Group, in the center was the American 12th Army Group, and in the south was the US Sixth Army Group. Within a month the center and south groups met in the west.

The German Army retreated and the French Resistance initiated an uprising by the French people. Paris was liberated at the end of August, as the German commander surrendered.

The Germans had destroyed all shipping and dockside facilities, so the Allied advance across France and the Western Front was difficult with their supply line impeded.

The deception of where the D-Day landings were going to take place was crucial to the success of the actual event. The Allies had leaked fake intelligence to convince the Germans they would be attacking via Calais, not Normandy.

Even though the initial landings onto the French coastline were a success, it took a further two months to clear the northern countryside of German troops since they were using the French countryside as defense, the Hawaii News Now reports.

In response to the Normandy invasion the Germans quickly got a reserve army in place using a mixture of new, young soldiers and older, experienced troops to hold their defense lines.

The Allies suffered high numbers of casualties, losing almost 800,000 men as dead or wounded. Manpower became a serious issue, especially as the Allied orders were to continue attacking. However, finally the Battle of the Bulge saw much of Germany’s last stand fall to the Allies.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE