US WWII vets awarded top French honour

Five American World War II veterans received France's highest honor Friday during a moving ceremony aboard a French naval vessel moored in Florida.

US WWII vets awarded top French honour
Photo: Diego Urdaneta/AFP

The five, ages 89 to 93, were awarded the Legion of Honor for their contributions to the liberation of different regions of France.

The ceremony was held on the deck of the Monge, a visiting French naval vessel that specializes in tracking satellite and missile trajectories.

"I feel very honored," said 89-year-old Milton Harr, who landed in Normandy on D-Day as a young soldier more than 70 years ago.

"It was a day much like this morning. It was overcast, there was a little drizzle and the big guns were out and behind me firing on the beach."

"When I got to the beach, I had never seen such wreckage in my life. It was a bloody affair but it was really necessary," said Harr, who like the others honored was accompanied at the ceremony by family members.

Tony Salce, 93, said he regretted never having returned to France after the war.

"The French were nice people, they always treated us good," he said.

Salce also took part in the D-Day invasion, aboard the USS Samuel Chase, immortalized in a photograph taken from a Coast Guard ship on the day of the epic landing.

The image was on display on the deck of the Monge, as the ship's crew and other French naval officials stood in formation in tribute to the veterans, some of them in wheelchairs and others with canes to steady themselves.

The three others who received the Legion of Honour were Stephen Barakakos, 93; and Frederick Conrod and Victor Trivett, both 90 years old.

"It has been more than 70 years but I can assure you that we have not forgotten anything," French Consul Philippe Letrilliart told the men.

As the World War II generation has begun to pass, France has been on a mission over the past 10 years to recognize Americans who fought on French soil during the war.