NATICK (CBS) – Ten New England D-Day veterans received France’s highest honor Friday at the Museum of World War II in Natick. They are all members of the Legion of Honor.
“Seventy years ago today, man, it was hell,” remembers Albert Berard who is from Taunton, and one of the honorees.
The 10 come from Quincy, Fall River, Cambridge, Newton and Woonsocket. Most were just teenagers on D-Day, and among the nearly 160,000 allied troops who invaded Normandy.
“You slept in burned out buildings, you fought in the hedgerows, you lived the terror of the war first hand,” says Kenneth Rendell, the founder of the museum.
“I was a bombardier on a Flying Fortress,” says Jim Zographos, who is from Springfield.
“I was a Bosun’s Mate 2nd class in the Navy Seabees,” says Arthur Cotton, who is from Waltham.
“I was in a communication outfit attached to the Army,” says Joe Murphy, who is from Dedham.
Today they were awarded the French Legion of Honor medal for helping to liberate Europe. “I want you to know, that the gift of freedom that you gave to us will stay with us forever,” French General Consul Fabien Fieschi told the veterans and their families.
Arthur Cotton was recognized for saving several GIs from drowning during the landing. “We jumped off and went and pulled them up and straightened them out and got them out of there,” he remembers.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports
Jim Zographos flew 50 bombing missions during the war. “I had a lot of airplanes behind me and the success of the mission was on my shoulders. If I failed, I failed everybody behind me,” he says.
Albert Berard was just 19 that day. “Every day I get up I thank God that I’m here, for having guided me through harms way,” he says.
But the pain of the war is still with them. “What hurts me a lot today, when I watch TV and see all those white crosses at the cemetery. These are boys who did their job like I did mine, but they died and I’m still here,” says Jim Zographos.
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