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D-Day Vet To Be Awarded French Legion Of Honor Medal. Here Is His Story Of Unmatched Courage And Sacrifice

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Matt M. Miller Contributor
  • World War II veteran Alvin Perry was drafted into the Army in November of 1943. He was born in Kentucky in 1923 and was raised in a home with no electricity, phone or car, he told the Louisville Courier Journal.
  • The Germans took Perry captive and brought him to an Axis field hospital in Rouen, France.
  • Perry is scheduled to receive the French Legion of Honor Friday, which Napoleon Bonaparte founded in 1802 and is meant to designate “eminent service” to France.

A French official will award D-Day veteran Alvin Perry, 95, of Kentucky the Legion of Honor medal Friday for his brave service in the campaign to liberate France from Nazi occupation.

Napoleon Bonaparte founded the Legion of Honor in 1802. The award is meant to designate “eminent service” to France, the Louisville Courier Journal reported.

“The American people call it the Normandy invasion. We call it the liberation,” explained Guillaume Lacroix, the consul general of France to the Midwest who will award the medal to Perry.

“The French people are extremely grateful,” he continued.

Perry was drafted into the Army in November 1943. He was born in Kentucky in 1923 and was raised in a home with no electricity, phone or car and traveled by horse, he told the Courier Journal.

After 17 weeks of basic training, Perry was shipped to Europe to prepare for the Normandy invasion.

“I wasn’t happy. I knew where we were going,” he said.

Handout photo of U.S. reinforcements landing on Omaha beach during the Normandy D-Day landings near Vierville sur Mer

U.S. reinforcements land on Omaha beach during the Normandy D-Day landings near Vierville sur Mer, France, on June 6, 1944 in this handout photo provided by the U.S. National Archives. REUTERS/Cpt Herman Wall/US National Archives/Handout via Reuters.

Perry’s landing craft dismounted on, at that point, an Allied controlled Omaha Beach in France on June 6, 1944. There were still Germans giving resistance to the Allied advance further up the beach.

“You don’t know what it’s like. You might be killed any minute,” he explained.

Perry was supposed to take part in a “mop-up” operation to clear remaining Germans in the area. (RELATED: Today Is The 75-Year Anniversary Of D-Day. Take A Moment To Remember How Badass Our Paratroopers Were On That Day) 

What was supposed to be a low intensity mission, according to unit commanders, turned into six days of hard fighting because the infantry was left unsupported by armored units (tanks) because of a bridge explosion, according to the Courier Journal. Perry next found himself in an intense firefight.

“The general told us we’d have an easy time, and we’d be having a hot breakfast the next morning. But that didn’t happen,” Perry said.

German soldiers surrounded Perry’s unit during the engagement.

“I could see the Germans running by us on the right,” Perry recounted. “In a short time, we were surrounded. They were firing at us from all angles.”

A German bullet hit Perry in the shoulder during the fight.

Following the firefight, the Germans took Perry captive and brought him to an Axis field hospital in Rouen, France, to be treated for his wounds. He was then shipped via train car to Stalag XII-A, a prisoner of war (POW) camp in Limburg, Germany. The journey took 16 days on account of frequent Allied bombing of the rail line. He says some American POWs who tried to escape were shot dead in front of him and the other prisoners during the journey.

“One fell right at my feet. We thought they were going to shoot us, too. … I was scared,” he said.

A LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) from the U.S. Coast Guard-manned USS Samuel Chase disembarks troops of the U.S. Army's First Division on the morning of June 6, 1944 (D-Day) at Omaha Beach. (Credit: official U.S. Coast Guard photograph)

A LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) from the U.S. Coast Guard-manned USS Samuel Chase disembarks troops of the U.S. Army’s First Division on the morning of June 6, 1944 (D-Day) at Omaha Beach. (Credit: official U.S. Coast Guard photograph)

Perry was forced to perform labor such as repairing bombed railways or picking crops while he was a POW. Perry says though his time as a POW was hard, the Germans “could have treated us a lot worse.”

“As long as you behaved, you were all right,” he explained.

The Allied forces liberated Perry’s POW camp on April 29, 1945.

“That was a feeling that I can’t describe,” Perry said according to the Courier Journal.

“We didn’t know if we’d get liberated. We were thrilled,” he continued.

Perry was discharged and returned home to his family in Kentucky in November 1945.

Perry still has a hole in his shoulder 75 years after the Battle of Normandy.

“There’s a hole there, but it doesn’t hurt too bad,” he said.

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