Louis Graziano, a 98-year-old WWII Veteran, was given the French Legion of Honor on Friday. The ceremony happened in Thomson, Georgia, where he lives.
Graziano took part in the D-Day invasion and the Battle of the Bulge. He witnessed the German surrender and has since been honored by the French.
The French Legion Of Honor
The French Legion of Honor has been given to many WWII American Veterans. It recognizes the role they played in liberating France from German occupation.
Hundreds of family and friends attended the ceremony held at the First United Methodist Church Family Life Center.
“France is what it is today, a free and sovereign country, thanks to the bravery of such veterans and thanks to America,” said Vincent Hommeril, consul general of France in Atlanta. “You are a true hero. Your example is an inspiration for the future, and your legacy provides a moral compass for generations to come.”
Graziano’s Childhood To World War II
Born in 1923, Graziano was raised by two Italian immigrants in East Aurora, New York. Before he was drafted in 1943, he worked as a hairstylist at his sister’s beauty parlor. In 1944, he took part in the June 6 invasion of Normandy.
In an interview with the American Veterans Center, Graziano described his deployment to Normandy and how he came ashore in the third wave of American troops on Omaha Beach.
“I drove a gasoline truck … onto the beach, and I jumped out of it real quick and got my guns and flame thrower,” he said. “Then I laid down on the ground of the beach there with the dead soldiers.”
While the Germans were raining down gunfire, Graziano crawled over to the cliffs. With his flamethrower, he shot up the ridge, taking out the machine gun. In the weeks after D-Day, Graziano continued to fight across Normandy. Then months later, he played a role in the Battle of the Bulge, where he almost lost his feet to frostbite.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, he became the utility foreman for the 102nd Infantry Field Artillery Battalion, Special Headquarters Command in Reims.
The End Of The War
After witnessing the signing of the surrender documents, Graziano was one of the ones who took the Germans to another room to meet Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
During the video interview, Graziano said that he was “honored” to witness the surrender. He thought of the men who had fought and died to bring about the victory.
While he was in Reims, Graziano met his future wife, Eula “Bobbie” Shaneyfelt. She served as a staff sergeant in the Women’s Army Corps. They eventually moved back to the United States, raising five children, and Graziano opened his hair parlor in Thomson. Graziano has since written a book about his experiences titled “A Patriot’s Memoirs of World War II.”
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