France Honors World War II Veterans From Georgia And Tennessee

Monday, September 25, 2017
French Consul General Louis de Corail pins Captain Donald Seesenguth with the French Legion of Honor at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta
French Consul General Louis de Corail pins Captain Donald Seesenguth with the French Legion of Honor at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta

As an expression of France’s eternal gratitude to those who liberated it from oppression from 1944-45, the Consul General of France in Atlanta, Louis de Corail, honored seven American World War II Veterans from Georgia and Tennessee with the French Legion of Honor during a ceremony at the capitol on Monday.

The National Order of the Legion of Honor is the highest military honor in France. Founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, it recognizes eminent services to the French Republic. Recipients of this honor are designated by the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron.

“I look forward to honoring these veterans for their bravery and courage, in the name of the French Republic. Their selfless service and sacrifice make them examples for posterity,” said Consul General de Corail.

The following veterans received the award in recognition of their courage:

- Josiah V. Benator from Atlanta, GA (First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, 20th Armored Infantry Battalion,10th Armored Division)

- Salvatore R. Pipitone from Athens, GA (First Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps, 579th Squadron, 392nd Bombardment Group, 2nd Air Division, 8th Air Force)

- Alvin Werbalowsky from Atlanta, GA (Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Corps, 389th Bombardment Group, 420th Army Air Force Base Unit)

- Bernard M. Parker from Milledgeville, GA (Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company K, 376th Infantry Regiment, 94th Infantry Division)

- Donald Seesenguth from Chattanooga (Captain, U.S. Army Air Corps, B-17 Bomber Pilot, 748th Squadron, 457th Bombardment Group, 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force)

Family members accepted the award for the following veterans, who have passed away since applying for the Legion of Honor:

- Edward W. Mercker from Marietta, GA (Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Corps, 325th Ferrying Squadron, 8th Air Force)

- Bruce E. Estes from Dallas, GA (Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company C, 141st Infantry, 36th Infantry Division)

Here are Counsel Genral Louis de Corail's remarks:

Dear veterans,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

My name is Louis de Corail, and I am the Consul General of France for the American Southeast. Having taken on this position just over a year ago it has been my pleasure to preside over a few of these ceremonies, and I must confess how deeply honored and moved I am every time to present the insignia of the Legion of Honor. Today, I will be presenting the medal to 7 American veterans of World War II in the name of the president of the Republic of France.

To begin, I would like to thank all of the veterans’ families and friends who have come from across Georgia and Tennessee to show their support and admiration. I would also like to recognize the Georgia Department of Veterans Service, the office of U.S. Senator David Perdue and the office of U.S. Congressman Jody Hice, which have sent representatives here today.

And of course, I’d like to sincerely thank Lisa Young for her beautiful and moving rendition of the American and French national anthems.

The National Order of the Legion of Honor was created by Emperor Napoleon in 1802 to recognize eminent services rendered to the Republic of France on the basis of personal merit. It is France’s most prestigious order. In fact, I cannot say enough to express in words the great deeds, outstanding achievements, devotion, bravery, sacrifices, inventions, and progress in every field of activity that the Legion of Honor has awarded and encouraged, as its founder hoped.

Today, we pay tribute to 7 American heroes who, more than 70 years ago, risked their young lives for the freedom of France and Europe. France is what it is today, a free and sovereign country, thanks to their bravery and thanks to America. 

What is the meaning of a ceremony like the one we are having today? One might think that this ceremony comes many years too late. 

But it is never too late to pay homage to these veterans. It is never too late to recall the legacy of their courage and their fight for freedom in a time of darkness and despicable ideologies that came to power in Europe.

This year is special in that it marks the 100th anniversary of the United States entering World War I. In fact, as part of the World War I Centennial commemorations, I was in Montgomery, Alabama just a month ago honoring troops who served in the Great War, many of whom died on French soil.

Today we remember that the French-American friendship is bound in blood and that our two countries owe each other their very existence as free nations.

We remember that from Yorktown and the Revolutionary War to the battlefields of World War I and beaches of Normandy, the United States and France have always stood shoulder to shoulder to defend and promote the values of freedom and democracy that we together gave the world more than 200 years ago. 

Just as French and Americans were close allies during WWI and WWII, we remain close allies today in fighting against terrorism in Iraq, in Syria and in central Africa. The United States and France are close allies in addressing international threats and challenges, such as the fight against terrorism, which aims at destroying the very heart and foundation of our societies.

Dear veterans,

You embody this shared French-American history. You illustrated with your courage the friendship and shared values that so profoundly bind our two nations. We are gathered here to honor you.

In recognition of your heroic actions and extraordinary accomplishments, the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, nominated you to the Legion of Honor, with the rank of Knight. 

Before officially bestowing you with this decoration, France’s highest honor, I would like to highlight your heroic deeds in France during World War II.

I will then present the medal of honor to Tim Estes who will accept the award on behalf of his late father and Mary Mercker who will accept the award on behalf of her late husband. 

1/First Lieutenant Josiah V. Benator
You enlisted in the U.S. Army at Fort McPherson in Atlanta in early 1943 and trained at Fort Gordon in Georgia. As part of company B of the 20th Armored Infantry Battalion you arrived in Cherbourg, France where you were part of the first American armored division to disembark on French soil directly from the United States. From there you trained in the Normandy countryside and came under fire in Mars La Tours. You also participated in the Ardennes campaign, including at Bastogne. By the end of the war, you had led a platoon in the Ardennes and the Central European Campaign.
In recognition for your service you were awarded with a Purple Heart, a Presidential Unit Citation, and the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 3 bronze service stars, among other awards.


HCSO Presents March Car Safety Tip: There's A Tether On My Car Seat?

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office is sharing the following information provided by Safe Kids Worldwide, regarding the tether strap on car seats, for their March car safety tip: What is a tether? The tether is the strap with a hook on it coming from the back or the top of your child’s car seat. What does a tether do? When the tether is attached and tightened to the ... (click for more)

Author Victoria Price To Visit Star Line Books With Her Memoir This Thursday

Star Line Books will host memoirist Victoria Price with her book, The Way of Being Lost: A Roadtrip to My Truest Self.  Ms. Price will be at Star Line Books for a discussion and signing of her memoir on Thursday from 6-7 p.m.   Ms. Price delves into her childhood with a doting, famous father and a detrimental, unloving mother. At the age of 49, despite having an outwardly ... (click for more)

City May Make It Easier For Food Trucks To Operate In Chattanooga

The City Council is considering action that would make it easier for food trucks to operate in Chattanooga.  City Attorney Wade Hinton said cities like Austin and Portland have thriving food truck operations and Chattanooga is studying those models. He said, "It's truly an industry there." He said a 2013 food truck ordinance was limited and did not allow food trucks on ... (click for more)

Magistrate Says She Was Fired Because Philyaw Did Not Want To Be Seen With Someone Openly Gay

A former magistrate at Juvenile Court said she was fired because Judge Rob Philyaw and Court Administrator Sam Mairs "wanted me gone because I was openly gay." County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said Elizabeth Gentzler was not the only gay at Juvenile Court and Hamilton County government, indicating that may be part of the county's defense. Attorney Stuart James, representing Ms. ... (click for more)

The Panhandling "Tax" On Gunbarrel

I’ve been reading about the panhandling problem in downtown; it is a huge problem in the Gunbarrel area, too.  It’s commonplace to be accosted by panhandlers when walking from your parked car into a commercial establishment.  And often they are aggressive.  I look carefully around my car before getting out, but sometimes someone will be lurking in between cars and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Sheriff’s Request

Jim Hammond will talk to members of the Hamilton County School Board on Thursday afternoon and, just like any police officer in the United States, he will request that everybody “stay in their own lane.” Some school board members tend to believe they need to help decide the best methods of protecting our children. They believe this is one of the things they were elected to do in ... (click for more)