France honored a Bartholomew County resident for his efforts more than 70 years ago in liberating the city of Metz during World War II.
Charles B. “Red” Whittington, received the Knight of the French National Order of the Legion of Honor during a Sept. 9 ceremony at the 68th reunion of the 95th Infantry Division Association in Kansas City, Missouri.
Col. Pierre-Olivier Marchand, French liaison officer at the Combined Arms Center in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, presented the medal to Whittington on behalf of France’s president, Emmanuel Macron. It’s France’s highest order of merit for military and civilian merits.
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Whittington was a member of I Company, 3rd Battalion, 377th Infantry Regiment, 95th Infantry Division, Third U.S. Army. He and his fellow soldiers liberated Metz from the Germans on Nov. 21, 1944, after more than a month of fighting.
In his acceptance speech, Whittington thanked France’s president for considering him a worthy recipient and making the award possible. He also recognized those who fought along side him.
“I thank my fellow Iron Men for having been beside me in battle and thank my brothers in arms, who are still here with me today, for their support and loyalty over these past 70-plus years,” Whittington said.
Whittington and other survivors of his division, known as the Iron Men of Metz for their heroics in liberating the city, previously were honored June 20, 2014, with the dedication of a bridge in their honor: The Iron Men of Metz Memorial Bridge across Clifty Creek on U.S. 31.
Marchand said in his speech that it was an honor and privilege to pay tribute to one of the “Iron Men of Metz,” whose bravery and determination restored hope to millions of people.
“France has not forgotten, France will never forget,” Marchand said.
Marchand noted that while enduring ferocious fighting and unfavorable conditions, Whittington saved the life of Lt. Dan Boulet during a tunnel clearing operation, and also continued fighting despite being wounded three times until a fourth wound required that he be evacuated.
“Thanks to your courage, to France’s American friends and allies, France has been living in peace for seven decades — the longest period of continuous peace in modern French history,” Marchand said.