Letter: Deserving honor for World War II veteran

From: Donald L. Barriger Jr.

Retired First Sergeant, E-8, U.S. Army, Hartsville

I wish to add my personal congratulations to Red Whittington on his award of Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honor (France). I had the honor to act as MC at the local Aug. 7 ceremony, arranged so that family and friends in Columbus could share the good news of this award, even though the medal could not be presented then.

Thanks are due to American Legion Post 24 for hosting a most enjoyable function, attended by well over 100 people.

I met Red over half a century ago, but after joining the Army and spending years away from the U.S. had lost contact with him. He and his son, my high school friend Shorty, taught me much about breeding and showing prize-winning Duroc hogs during my FFA days. In early 2016, when my wife and I began work to establish a local FFA Alumni Association, I reconnected with Red and discovered that we shared something else in common: military service.

When I realized that Red could be eligible for the Legion of Honor award, my wife and I volunteered to research and prepare the information needed to support his nomination. It was submitted by Shorty on Oct. 10, 2016, along with a detailed chronology of Red’s service, including:

  • Aug. 7, 1942: Red enlisted. He was just 20 years old and soon would become one of thousands of patriotic American soldiers to help liberate Europe from an evil aggressor.
  • Aug. 9, 1944: His unit was sent to England.
  • Sept. 9, 1944: Left England, headed for Omaha Beach.
  • Oct. 10, 1944: The 95th Infantry Division became part of General Patton’s Third Army.
  • Oct. 19, 1944: Activated for battle. A key objective was to take the town of Metz from the Germans, so the Allies could push forward toward Germany. During the next five weeks, many fierce, heroic and selfless battles were fought, with hundreds of men killed or wounded.
  • Nov. 21, 1944: The 95th gained control of Metz and captured the wounded German commander, Lt. Heinrich Kittle. He dubbed the men of the 95th “The Iron Men of Metz” because he was impressed by their courage and fighting spirit. During cleanup operations that day, Red distinguished himself by saving the life of a senior officer. While clearing Germans out of a tunnel, they noticed a barricade concealing a booby trap. Red pulled the lieutenant back just before it exploded. For his bravery, he was cited in the “After Action Report” of his commanding officer. Red also received the Metz Medal from the Mayor of Metz.
  • Nov. 26, 1944: Badly wounded near Boulay.

In July, Red learned that the Legion of Honor award had been approved. The French representative will present the medal to Red at the 68th reunion of the 95th Infantry Division Association in Kansas City, Missouri, on Sept. 9, which will be 73 years after he sailed for France.

Red also was thrilled to receive recently a personal letter of congratulations from Vice President Michael Pence.