A Very Rare Event – France’s Highest Honor Awarded to D-Day American Air Gunner from Georgia

In a very rare honor, James Livingstone of Whitemarsh Island was awarded France’s highest decoration being named a Knight French Legion of Honor. Recipients are chosen by France’s President for commendable service to France and her citizens.

The honorary counsel of France in Savannah, Denis Blackburne and Lt. Col. Mike Squires, commander of the Hunter Army Air Field Garrison, jointly presented the medal.

Blackburne gave a short history of Livingstone’s military career beginning with basic training in Miami Beach, Florida; after his training, he served as a gunner with the 506th bomb squadron, as a part of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, in the 44th bombing group. He was stationed at Shipdham, U.K.

Livingstone’s air career included more than 30 bombing missions over Germany and France which Blackburne said was extraordinary since the average number was 15.

Livingstone was also present at the D-Day invasion in a B-24 Liberator at 16,000 feet. His task was to fire ahead of the Allied soldiers on the beach creating foxholes for soldiers to provide some cover for them.

It was the guys on the ground who worried him, he explained. They had the worst tasks of anyone. He prayed for those storming the beaches.

Ever modest, Livingstone said when the medal was pinned to his lapel that there was little he could say except thank you.

Blackburne said he was pleased to have the chance to give Livingstone his medal, and he never thought he would have the opportunity to present the honor, given its infrequent awarding and gravity.

It’s been 70 years since the Second World War ended. There will be few of these events in the future, sadly.

Livingstone lives with his nephew and niece at their Whitmarsh Island home.

Family means so much to him that in 2010 he kept a promise made to his mother in 1942. At the age of 85, he graduated from Screven County High School with his diploma. When he joined the military in 1942, one year of high school remained. Due to illness, he hadn’t received his high school diploma, SavannahNow reported.

It took him a while to achieve it, but he finally finished the task. It was always on my mind. Eventually, he came around and said to himself: this promise has to be kept to Mother.

Livingstone will be 93 next month. His time is filled with gardening. His small garden at the back of the porch has a home-made irrigation system that helps produce eggplants, squash, and tomatoes for him and his family.

Ian Harvey

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