WARNER ROBINS — The French Legion of Honor was established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte to recognize both military and civilian people who performed extraordinary deeds for France.
Four World War II veterans from the Southeast United States were honored with the medal at the Museum of Aviation on Wednesday.
Consul General of France Pascal Le Deunff presented Albert Whatley, Edward Quilty and Oliver Littlejohn with the decoration, which is the highest honor in France. The wife of the late James Leach accepted the honor on his behalf.
Le Deunff told the deeds of these four men, who all helped lead the Allied Forces to liberate France.
“You were there when hope was disappearing,” Le Deunff said.
Littlejohn, 85, from Sandy Springs, was in the Battle of the Bulge. He led his platoon despite being wounded and earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
Littlejohn has some ties to Macon as well. He was a dean at Mercer University School of Pharmacy in Atlanta and his daughter Susan Percy graduated with bachelor’s and law degrees from Mercer in Macon.
The men spoke after receiving their awards and expressed their thanks to France and its people.
Marion Leach, wife of James Leach of Beaufort, S.C., said her husband would have been honored to have received the award. The Beaufort Rotary Club made the drive to Warner Robins to witness the honor.
Leach also was in the Vietnam War and earned five Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars, the Distinguished Service Cross and two Silver Stars.
Albert Whatley of Tucker said he was happy to have survived the war “when so many of my friends did not.” Whatley was with the 18th infantry and led an advance across an open field to regain radio communications.
Quilty was a commander in the Cruiser Division 7. He was wounded in Germany in August 1944 and received the Purple Heart.
“We will never be able to give enough praise,” Le Deunff said.
To contact writer Angela Woolen, call 923-5650.