Order of the Legion of Honor
Video by Georges Clouscard
The Legion of Honor, or the National Order of the Legion of Honor, is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte on May 19, 1802. The Legion of Honor is the highest decoration in France.
The Legion of Honor is divided into five various degrees:
Grand officier (Grand Officer)
Grand croix (Grand Cross)
The President of the French Republic is the Grand Master of the Order. He appoints all other members of the Order – by convention, on the advice of the Government.
Technically, membership in the Legion is restricted to French nationals. Foreign nationals who have served France or the ideals it upholds may, however, receive a distinction of the Legion.
The President of the Republic has decreed that every World War II veteran who has fought under enemy fire on French soil is eligible for this distinction.
The Legion of Honor medal can be given by other members of the Order or by French ambassadors stationed in a foreign country. A ceremony is traditionally organized by the Head of the Diplomatic post in the region “on behalf of the President of the Republic”.
The Legion of Honor can be granted at a large ceremony or a small gathering with family and friends. It is a solemn and official event to honor the recipient, and to recognize their bravery and sacrifice in the name of freedom.
Upon presentation of their military file, US veterans who risked their life during World War II fighting on French territory may be awarded this distinction.
Those selected are appointed to the rank of Knight of the Legion of Honor. The Legion of Honor medal is not awarded posthumously.
To be eligible to this outstanding award, the veteran must fit strict criteria:
Interested veterans of all branches of the armed forces must have fought in at least one of the 4 main campaigns of the Liberation of France: Normandy, Provence, Ardennes or Northern France. Actions having taken place in Belgium, Germany, Italy or any other neighboring European countries are not taken into consideration.
The file presented must contain:
the military separation record (honorable discharge)
a chronological resume about one typewritten page in length
a copy of a current identity document with a picture.
If possible, the file must also contain:
copies of citations for all the decorations already received in France or in the United States indicating meritorious action during wartime operations.
This is especially important for decorations that were not shown in the discharge document at the time of separation.
To be considered, these citations must have been issued during WWII or the close aftermath, and must relate to events (outstanding actions, wounds, having been made prisoner, evasions, having taken action with the resistance, etc.) that took place on French territory.
This only includes ground, airspace and coastal waters.
Awards such as the Bronze Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart and Silver Star will contribute to having a competitive record.
If the file meets the criteria, it is sent to the Legion of Honor committee in Paris. The Legion of Honor committee approves or rejects the candidate after appropriate review of his file.
This process does not involve an application. Once the veteran’s records have been submitted, they will not receive further word unless they are ultimately selected for the honor. The process can take several months.
Consulate General of France in Louisiana
1340 Poydras Street, Suite 1710
New Orleans, LA 70112