Today, Harold Storey and James C. Austin, both of Rome, will have the Legion of Honor bestowed upon them during a ceremony in Atlanta. The award will be given by the newly appointed Consul General of France in Atlanta, Denis Barbet, at the Lenox building.
The Legion of Honor is also being given to 10 other World War II veterans from the Southeast as France expresses its gratitude to those who liberated it from Nazi Germany.
Founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the National Order of the Legion of Honor is the highest honor in France.
Austin, now 87, recalled his time as a second class pharmacist’s mate on LST-57, which they rapidly converted into floating medical centers to evacuate the wounded.
“One year out of Appomatox, Va., High School, I hit the beaches of Normandy on LST-57 as a part of Foxy 29 medical evacuation group,” he said in a statement he prepared for the occasion. “We unloaded the troops and tanks and anything else we had aboard, and we turned it into a medical evacuation ship.”
He recounted the moment those huge flat-bottomed tanks rolled onto the beach.
“In early morning hours of June 6, as we pulled out into the (English) Channel, the sky was darkened with planes and gliders that trembled from the salvos, going over our heads from the battleships, Nevada and Texas,” Austin remembered. “German guns from the pillboxes and especially German 88s cut down hundreds of our troops. There were many dead soldiers on the beaches and some washed out to sea.”
He said he picked many wounded soldiers from the waters and brought them back to the LST for treatment, where every bunk — even the captain’s quarters — was soon filled. There were 20 corpsmen and two doctors on each LST during in the medical evacuation.
“As a medic I treated many wounded and picked up the nickname of ‘Morphine Flo,’ from marking the foreheads of the soldiers after administering first aid and morphine,” he said.
D-Day was really déjà vu for Austin, he said, having gotten his first real taste of combat during Operation Tiger just two months before.
Operation Tiger was a dress rehearsal gone awry after the Germans broke the code and torpedoed three LSTs.
“On that day, 749 American troops were left dead in the English Channel,” Austin recalled. “We rescued 89 and I got my first real war experience as I had to act the medic I had been trained to be.”
Storey, 90, was a first lieutenant when he landed as a replacement in Normandy after the initial wave.
Storey said he became a platoon leader alongside five other officers and fought until he was wounded.
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“I was in combat from that time toward the end of January at the end of the Battle of the Bulge,” he said. “I was wounded by shrapnel and spent the rest of my time in the hospital in Luxembourg and Paris and England. I recovered and then had a couple of special assignments which was helping get people back to the States that had been stationed all over the world.”
Storey said it was an honor to have been able to help the French during that time.
“I am pleased, not pleased that I was in it, but pleased that I can allude to the fact that I saw so many people in the French resistance,” Storey said. “We had the opportunity as we approached a village that had been evacuated and most of the civilians didn’t want to stay but some of them, if they were older or too sick to move and so on. But we were honored to get to meet those people who were the bravest of the brave.”