French officers pinned the Legion of Honour on the chests of 99 former American soldiers Saturday, thanking them at a pomp-filled military ceremony for helping to free Europe from Nazism 60 years ago.
Children and grandchildren watched proudly, many shooting pictures and videos.
Most of the recipients landed on Normandy’s beaches on D-Day – others were pilots who backed the invasion with bombs, medics who treated the wounded, troops who landed elsewhere in France after the initial attack.
The government says it wanted to honour the 99 as representatives of all the Americans who helped liberate France from German occupation.
“There’s no one who deserves it more than him,” Sarah Martin said of her uncle, Alvin Ungerleider, of Burke, Va., who stormed ashore at Omaha Beach and later helped liberate a Nazi concentration camp. “He kept his cool at the landing and in all the chaos was able to lead a group of men.”
Also receiving awards were three Australian fighters who participated in D-Day. French President Jacques Chirac will decorate 16 more veterans Sunday in Normandy, representatives of nearly a dozen countries who aided the Allied effort.0