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CHARLESTON, S.C. — Seven World War II veterans from South Carolina, including former governor and U.S. Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, are receiving the highest honor bestowed by France.
The seven receive the Order of the Legion of Honor during a ceremony on Monday. The award is to honor the South Carolinians for their help in liberating France in 1944 and 1945.
It was created by Napoleon in 1802, and those who receive it are designated by the president of France. The award is for eminent military or civilian services rendered to the Republic of France.
Francois Delattre, the French ambassador to the United States, will bestow the award during a ceremony at Charleston’s historic Dock Street Theatre.
Others receiving the honor include Army Air Corps veterans Ernest Haar of West Columbia, Alexander Molnar of Bluffton and Joseph Jones of Hilton Head Island. The others are Army veterans Stanley Wapinski and Leon Jones, both of Columbia, and Richard Jolley of Aiken.
Hollings, who is 91, joined the Army after his 1942 graduation from The Citadel, and served in Africa and then in Europe for almost three years. He commanded a radar and search light unit that for a time was stationed at Ambrerieu Airfield in eastern France.
“I have never seen braver pilots than those I was working with,” he told the AP on Friday.
Hollings, who served in the Senate for 38 years from 1966 to 2005, said he appreciates the honor.
“But the others did the job. I remember the 50th anniversary of D-Day at Normandy. I went around getting all the names off the crosses of South Carolinians and it took two months to call all the families,” Hollings said. “That crowd deserves the credit. We had a cakewalk invading into southern France.”
Jolley, another of those being honored, told the Aiken Standard this week he arrived in Normandy five weeks after D-Day in 1944. Jolley, now 88, was wounded a short time later but recovered and fought in the Battle of the Bulge that December.
“I’m real proud. It’s a special thing,” he said of receiving the Order of the Legion of Honor.
Hollings said he didn’t know until he was told by a reporter, that six other veterans were being honored.
“You cover the others,” he said.