City Veteran Bestowed French Legion Of Honor Medal
A member of the “Greatest Generation” has been honored once again for the role he played during the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
Paul Arnone of Jamestown has received the French Legion of Honor medal, which he was awarded this past weekend during a special ceremony in Conneaut Township Park in Ohio. The French Legion of Honor is the highest distinction that France can bestow upon those who have achieved remarkable deeds for France.
Arnone, 95, was one of six World War II veterans who were honored during the ceremony. Founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the National Order of the Legion of Honor recognizes service to the French Republic. Recipients of the honor are named by decree signed by the president of the republic.
Consul General of France Guillaume Lacroix officially presented the Legion of Honor medals to the honorees during the annual D-Day Ohio event. The event also marked the 75th Anniversary of the landings in Normandy and Southern France.
“There were at least 2,000 people there for the medal ceremony and the re-enactment,” Arnone said.
Arnone said he was notified June 5 that he would be receiving the medal. He said prior to being selected, he had to fill out a questionnaire, which had to be reviewed by the French government before they approved the medal for Arnone. He said the process took longer than a year. Along with the medal, Arnone also received a special French proclamation.
“It was really overwhelming to get picked for this,” he said. “I feel honored getting this. What I did to help liberate the country of France was a big deal. It’s quite an attractive medal.”
Arnone was a signal man on a U.S. Navy LST (landing ship, tank) during the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. The vessels were created during World War II to support amphibious operations by carrying vehicles, cargo and landing troops directly onto shore. Arnone’s LST made 27 trips between England and France during the invasion, landing on three of the five Normandy beaches. They brought food, medication, ammunition and clothing to the troops when they landed on the shores of Normandy. On return trips to England, the LST would carry injured soldiers to hospitals for medical attention. In talking about his experience, Arnone admitted to getting sick by the brutality of war.
“What I went through was a different lifestyle,” he said. “I was 18 when I landed on Normandy. I did what I had to do.”
In 2014, Arnone returned to Normandy during the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. He said it was surreal returning to Normandy, seeing for the first time the wide open and mostly empty beaches, which seven decades before was a crowded sight of soldiers, tanks and ships. He added he was interviewed by a news reporter while visiting Normandy.
“I told him it looked like a big junkyard,” Arnone said about what Normandy looked like during the invasion because of the mass number of tanks and ships. “Now, I look at it and it’s a beautiful place for a vacation.”
While the interview was going on, Arnone said he noticed a French man and a couple members of his family waiting. Arnone said once the interview was done the man gave him a “big bear-hug,” kissed him on the cheeks and said “merci” several times to thank him for his service during the D-Day invasion.
The French Legion of Honor is the latest of the medals Arnone has received. Last year, he received both the state Medal of Merit, with assistance from former state Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, and the Conspicuous Service Cross, which is the highest honor the state awards a veteran, from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The other French Legion of Honor honorees include Daniel Buzek, 95, of New Franklin, Ohio; Claude J. Koon, 94, of Salem, Ohio; Albert J. Kosiba, 98, of Warren, Ohio; and Richard L. Wilczewski, 94, of Erie, Pa. The late William H. Cook Jr. of Parker, Pa., (1922-2018) was also recognized.