Veterans Day 2017: Honoring WWII Veterans in the Midwest
Consul General Guillaume Lacroix and his Deputy Frédéric Cholé commemorated Veterans Day in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas and Michigan and presented the Legion of Honor to 3 WWII Veterans.
On November 10 and 11, Consul General Guillaume Lacroix made a special trip to Kansas to present the French Legion of Honor to WWII Veteran William Brecheisen Sr., 95, of Chanute, Kansas and to participate in the official Veterans Day Commemoration at the National World War I Museum and Memorial of the United States in Kansas City. Dignitaries included Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, Kansas City Mayor James Sly, and representatives from the Combined Arms Center. Consul General Lacroix was accompanied by Honorary Consul of France Cyprienne Symchowitz.
Legion of Honor Presentation Ceremony
WWII Veteran William Brecheisen Sr. received the French Legion of Honor in Garnett, Kansas in the presence of Brig. Gen. Jay Selanders, Commander of the Kansas Air National Guard. The ceremony took place at the Anderson County Junior/Senior High School.
Staff Sergeant Brecheisen was called into active service 1942 at age 22. He was assigned to the 30th Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division where he served as a machine gunner and squad leader in an anti-tank company.
He landed in French Morocco in April 1943. Shortly after, he moved to Tunisia to train for amphibious warfare. He took part in three seaborne assaults during the campaigns of Italy, Sicily and Salerno in 1943, and Anzio in 1944, before the final landing in Southern France in August 1944.
His mission was to clear out enemy forces guarding the access into France from the South. Once the operation had succeeded, he was deployed northward in the Mountains of the Vosges. In November, after weeks of combat, he reached the plains of Alsace and in December the city of Strasbourg.
Shortly after the capture of Strasbourg, his regiment was reassigned to the front facing the Colmar Pocket in support of the French Army where he fought until February 1945.
After successfully pushing back enemy lines and securing the western side of the Rhine River, your regiment would be attached to the newly formed XV Corps tasked as the “Spearhead” across the Rhine into Germany. Mr. Brecheisen was wounded twice in during combat in France, in November 1944 and February 1945.
For his valorous conduct in action, Mr. Brecheisen has received prestigious distinctions including the Purple Heart Medal, the Bronze Star Medal for your action in France, the Distinguished Unit Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the medal of the France Libérée, and finally, the prestigious French Croix de Guerre with Palm for the Battle of the Colmar Pocket.
Veterans Day at the National World War I Museum and Memorial
On November 14th, Consul General Lacroix presented the Legion of Honor to WWII Hero, entrepreneur and philanthropist Morton "Mort" Harris at the prestigious Cranbrook Academy in Bloomfield Hills. Over 250 guests attended the event including Michigan dignitaries and representatives of the French-American business community.
Captain Harris, entered into active service in March 1943 at age 23. He was assigned to the 95th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force where he served as a lead combat pilot and squadron commander.
His squadron, the 334th, was equipped with Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses. In February 1944, Mr. Harris participated in the “Big Week” offensive against the German aircraft manufacturing industry. A few days later, in March, he targeted Berlin. It was the first time any unit from the Eighth (8th) Air Force had bombed the German capital.
He also conducted missions against German V-weapons facilities and launch sites that were camouflaged into the French countryside, targeted airfields, marshaling yards, and various enemy sites in Cazeaux, Dijon, Cherbourg, and Sarreguemines...
On two occasions, he led a small group of B-17s for parachute drops to the French Maquis in the middle of wooded areas during Operation Cadillac.
On June 6th, during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, he fought around the clock to support the Allied troops, striking coastal defenses, communications networks and enemy forces. A month later, during the breakthrough of Saint-Lô, his squadron provided essential Air support to the troops on the ground.
Mr. Harris also participated in the battle of the Bulge, and took part in the assault across the Rhine in March 1945.
Finally, he volunteered to lead the 8th Air Force to Warsaw, Poland, to drop ammunition, food and medical supplies to the Polish resistance forces.
Captain Harris has completed a total of 33 missions, a third of them over France, twice your plane was shot down and he was rescued at sea; He was also the lead pilot for up to 91 aircrafts with 10 crew members on board; and he was the only airman to successfully complete 8 bombing missions over Berlin.
Veterans Day Ceremony in Orland Park, Illinois.
On November 10th, Deputy Consul General Frédéric Cholé participated in the Veterans Day Ceremony in Orland Park, Illinois. This year a special tribute was paid to France.
Legion of Honor Presentation Ceremony
On November 11th, Mr. Cholé presented the French Legion of Honor to WWII Veteran Russell E. Lomax, 93, of Evansville, Indiana. Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke and U.S Representative Larry Bucshon from Indiana’s 8th district were both in attendance.
The ceremony followed the annual service at Oak Hill Cemetery which serves as a regional site for the celebration of Veterans Day.
Private First Class Lomax entered active duty in January 1943 at age 19. He served with the 47th Infantry Regiment of the 9th Division where he was a light mortar crewman. In 1943, he was deployed in North Africa and prepared for the assault on Sicily on August 1st.
Once the island was liberated, he went to England to train for the Allied invasion of France. He landed in Normandy at Utah Beach on D-Day plus four. For days, he fought to push back enemy lines until the Cotentin peninsula was cut-off and Cherbourg was captured. After the fall of the city, combats continued in the hedgerows towards Saint-Lô.
In July, Mr. Lomax was captured along with a dozen of other comrades and was marched back behind enemy lines. As he was marching, Mr. Lomax and Sergeant Carlsrud, another serviceman, broke the line and ran off. Both were wounded by enemy fire but they made it back to their company. They never heard of the other soldiers again.
Later that month, he was wounded again and had to be evacuated to England. Today, Mr. Lomax still have a piece of shrapnel close to his spine that reminds him of these dreadful days. Later, he was sent back to the front in north eastern France, then on the German-Belgium border and finally in Germany.
Mr. Lomax has received prestigious distinctions including two Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star Medal, and the European African Middle Eastern Theater Medal with five campaign stars.