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San Diego WWII Veterans To Be Awarded France’s Highest Civilian Honor

Marines raised the American flag of victory atop Mt. Suribachi on February 23...

Credit: Courtesy of Associated Press

Above: Marines raised the American flag of victory atop Mt. Suribachi on February 23, 1945 – only five days into the 36 day battle of Iwo Jima. This is the most reproduced photograph of WWII and perhaps of all time.

Five World War II veterans are scheduled to receive France's highest civilian honor Monday in a ceremony at Naval Base San Diego.

The honorees include a B-17 navigator, two infantryman, a nurse and a forward artillery observer.

The award of The National Order of The Legion of Honor in the rank of Chevalier (Knight) is the highest civilian honor France bestows on its citizens and foreign nationals.

The presentations will be made by Christophe Lemoine, the Consul General of France in Los Angeles, at a private ceremony aboard the French Naval Patrol Vessel B2M Bougainville.

According to the U.S. Navy, the honorees will be:

–Col. Douglas C. Willet, U.S. Air Force Reserves (Ret), a B-17 navigator who flew five combat missions and was reactivated during the Korean War;

–Robert A. Sulit, an infantryman who later reenlisted in the Navy and rose to the rank of captain;

–2nd Lt. Helen L. Cronk, an Army nurse in France who will become the first Southern California woman to receive the award;

–Staff Sgt. Gerhard R. Lorenz, an infantryman who lost a leg when wounded in combat; and

–John J. Roach, an Army forward artillery observer.

Willet, Lorenz and Roach live in San Diego. Sulit resides in Del Mar. Cronk is a resident of San Juan Capistrano.

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