WW2 Veteran Harry Read Survived Normandy, Awarded France’s Highest Honor

Pegasus Bridge, 1944. <a href=https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11325210>Photo Credit</a>
Pegasus Bridge, 1944. Photo Credit

A Bournemouth, England, war veteran was awarded France’s highest military honor, Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honor) at Kensington Palace.

Harry Read, a distinguished member of the international Salvation Army, was made a Chevalier at the ceremony.

Mr. Read served in the 6th Airborne Division during World War II, in the early hours of June 6, 1944, parachuted into the Pegasus Bridge area of Normandy.

The area, surrounding the drop zone, has been deliberately flooded, so a lot of men drowned on landing.

The French government was very magnanimous when it resolved to honor, with this highly esteemed medal, those who participated in France’s liberation, he said.

His feelings are of pride, but it’s a pride mitigated with the knowledge of the thousands of lives lost needed to triumph.

As with others, he stood at the graves of friends who died in action and has been deeply moved, said Read. In their deaths, they have only a headstone and a small strip of ground, whereas his life has been so rich and satisfying. War is cruel.

Mr. Read, a commissioner in the Salvation Army, earlier served in the church’s Australia East territory as territorial commander and in Canada as its chief secretary.

Remembering the landing in Normandy, he said in that first 60 minutes of D-Day, as their airplane flew them steadily and inevitably towards the French coast, at the command, they stood in line and prepared to leap.

Keeping their feet in a wildly jerking airplane wasn’t easy, but the red warning light was on, and then came the green light. They shuffled unevenly to the exit where, in turn, they leaped out into the night to whatever awaited them, Daily Echo reported.

They were on time but, having landed, they knew they were in the wrong location because they splashed down in an area purposefully flooded to make life hazardous for assaults by air.

Many men drowned there, but for those who survived they faced the problems of linking with our detachments, Read explained.

Ian Harvey

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