A Woodstock veteran who supported the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in World War II was presented the Legion of Honor by the French government on Thursday.
At the Marietta post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Woodstock resident Alan Hall, a U.S. Navy veteran, was recognized by the French government for role in the liberation of France. The Legion of Honor is the highest honor the French government bestows.
“I am deeply proud to present this to him,” said Louis de Corail, the Consul General of France at the French consulate in Atlanta. “This medal is awarded on behalf of the President of the Republic of France, Emmanuel Macron.”
Hall served as a signal officer in the Navy after enlisting in late 1943 and was involved in the Normandy landings in June 1944.
Hall’s action in France began on June 11, 1944, five days after the first waves of Allied troops went ashore on the beaches of Normandy.
As part of a small special missions team, Hall said his team followed a U.S. Army division across northern France, eventually reaching the port city of Le Havre. Once the city was secured, Hall and the others in his team set up operations, helping bring in American Liberty Ships into the port so that the supplies these ships were carrying, including food and vehicles, could be unloaded and sent to the front lines.
While describing his service as being all for the cause of freedom, Hall recalled that combat wasn't the only form of warfare Allied forces encountered. Enemy propaganda was aimed at distracting them from their mission.
“One of my comrades had a portable radio, and we would pick up music from ‘Axis Sally,’” Hall said. “She would play music — American music, and tell us things like, ‘Don’t you wish you were home right now? You don’t have to be here.’”
During the ceremony, de Corail briefly elaborated on the history of the Legion of Honor, which was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 and recognizes French citizens, as well as foreign nationals, who have served France or the ideals it upholds. According to French consulate officials, former French President Jacques Chirac established a policy approximately 15 years ago to decorate American veterans who risked their lives to free France from the Nazis, showing France’s gratitude to these American service members.
“The French-American friendship is bound in blood,” de Corail said. “You illustrated the values that bind our two nations. You are a true hero, and you will always be a hero.”
Having been awarded the insignia of Knight of the Legion of Honor (one of the five levels of distinction of the Legion of Honor), Hall joins an illustrious list of Americans who have received the distinction of being named to the Legion of Honor, including Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and, as an institution, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.
“As Consul General, I represent my county in six states,” de Corail said. “Since I arrived around three years ago, I have been able to decorate around 30 veterans. This is one of the most valuable and gratifying parts of the job.”
The Legion of Honor was not the only recognition Hall received during Thursday’s ceremony. A pair of staff members from U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk’s office read a letter of congratulations and appreciation from the congressman, as well as presenting Hall with an American flag which recently flew over the U.S. Capitol. A certificate of appreciation was presented to Hall by representatives of the Georgia Department of Veterans Service, while representatives from the Disabled American Veterans had made a special hat for him.
Part of the ceremony also took a moment and recognized the 75th anniversary of the landings in Normandy. To remember those who stormed the shores of northern France on June 6, the VFW post’s chaplain offered the same prayer President Franklin D. Roosevelt read to the American public on D-Day as the ceremony’s invocation, while Capt. Barry Parker of the U.S. Navy read the statement prepared by Eisenhower and read to the servicemen before the invasion began as part of his remarks.
Although Hall said he wished many of his comrades could have been there with him to receive the honor, he said he was grateful for the recognition.
“I feel very honored to receive this award,” Hall said. “This medal comes as a great honor to me. If I was younger, I would do it all over again. I’m absolutely proud to do what I did.”