Robert (Bob) Walling, a St. Philip’s parishioner, was awarded the French Legion of Honor on November 6, 2013, along with six other World War II veterans in Tucson. The French Legion of Honor was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. The five degrees are the highest honors bestowed in France. Following the two World Wars, the Legion of Honor was awarded to honor the heroism of veterans and to comfort the families of soldiers who had sacrificed their lives to protect their country. U.S. Veterans who risked their lives during World War II to fight on French territory qualify to be decorated as Knights of the Legion of Honor.
Bob was drafted into the army in 1942. After basic training, he was assigned to the 745th Tank Battalion, and eventually sent to England. His unit was attached to the 1st Division, known subsequently as “The Big Red One,” and was in training for the invasions of France. His unit went in on Omaha Beach and traveled through northern France, Belgium, and Germany. He completed five campaigns, including the Battle of Mons, the Siegfried Line, Aachen, Hurtgen Forest, Ardennes, Roer River, the Rhine, Remagen Bridgehead, Ruhr, and Hanz Pockets, ending in Cheb, Czechoslovakia. In his eleven months of combat, Bob’s job was to deliver gasoline and ammunition to the tanks under the most difficult circumstances. With the cessation of hostilities, the Battalion moved to the ancient town of Rothenburg, where his unit was part of the occupation forces. Bob spent a month processing and guarding 80,000 German prisoners, as well as other occupation duties. He returned to the United States in October 1945 and was subsequently deactivated from the army. Bob was awarded the Bronze Star, the Good Conduct Medal, and his Company, the 745th, was awarded the Meritorious Service Unit Plaque.
Following is the statement of the award:
I am pleased to inform you that by decree of President Hollande on May 21, 2013, you have been appointed a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. This award testifies to President Hollande’s high esteem for your merits and accomplishments. In particular, it is a sign of France’s infinite gratitude and appreciation for your personal and precious contribution to the United States’ decisive role in the liberation of our country during World War II. The French people will never forget your courage and your devotion to the great cause of freedom.
It is a true pleasure for me to convey to you our sincere and warm congratulations.