Legion of Honor conferred on Kingsland vet

Kingsland man to be honored with French Order of Legion of Honor

 

A Kingsland man will be honored Friday, Nov. 11, with the medal of Knight in the French Order of the Legion of Honor for his service during World War II.

Sujiro Seam, the Consul General of France in Houston, will honor Capt. Gerald Stoddard, who is unable to attend the ceremony, which will be the highlight of Austin’s Veterans Day Celebration. It will take place after the parade, on the south steps of the Texas Capitol at 11 a.m. Friday.

Stoddard, born Jan. 19, 1924, enlisted in the U.S. Army in June 1942. After graduating from flying school as a second lieutenant, he joined the 55th Fighter Group and became a fighter pilot for P-38 and P-51 planes.

On June 18, 1944, Stoddard provided cover for ground forces over Normandy, escort missions over Le Havre and strafing mission on German troops in Picardie, France. Stoddard received the Purple Heart, the Air Medal with one Oak Leaf cluster, a Prisoner of War Medal and the European Theater Medal.

Other veterans who will be honored Friday and will attend include Roberto Guerra, Blaine Hufnagle, George Karm, Oliver Morris, Alvin Newton, William Rittenberry, Walter Schattel, Charles Screws, Mortimer Sheffloe, William Thacker and Harry Whisler.

Not attending but also being honored include Leonard Cadenhead, Michael Cambon, Raymond Cruse, William Malone, Hubert Martin and Fred Ricketts.

Local officials present for the ceremony are Austin Mayor Steve Adler, State Sen. Robert Nichols and a delegation from Angers, France (Austin’s sister city).

Students from Austin International School and St. Edwards University will attend the ceremony. Renée Porter from the Franco-American Vocal Academy (FAVA) will sing the anthems of France and the United States.

The history of the Legion of Honor stems back to 1802, after all French orders of chivalry
were abolished during the French Revolution. Napoleon Bonaparte, who was then the First Consul of the First French Republic, instituted a new order as a way to recognize merit: the National Order of the Legion of Honor, which was meant to reward civilians and soldiers who had achieved great things in the service of France.

Since its creation, the award has never been abolished, and has remained the highest, most prestigious, decoration in France. This order is awarded solely as a recognition of merit or bravery, being open to men and women of all ranks and professions.

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