French Legion of Honor Medal to Stevens and NavarreNavarre at cemenony awarding him the French Legion of Honor

Two veterans of the 761st Tank Battalion have received the French Legion of Honor medal. On April 10, 2007, in a ceremony at the Washington State Capitol, Christopher P. Navarre was awarded the medal signifying appointment to the National Order of the Legion of Honor of France. Navarre ceremony (Click here for a separate news story describing the similar May 8, 2006, award to Johnnie Stevens.) In his comments at the ceremony, Mr. Navarre said, "I was born in Lafayette, Louisiana on January 15, 1920, as a second class citizen," and he recounted how he and his fellows failed to receive recognition at the time of their accomplishments. There were actually two presentations. Navarre ceremonyMr. Frederic Desagneaux (Consul General of France in San Francisco) presented him with the French Legion of Honor medal. In addition, Matt Hinkle (Ft Lewis) and Colonel Halusz presented him with the U.S. Army Freedom Team Salute.

Navarre ceremonyOne of the regular army's youngest First Sergeant’s in 1943, Chrisotpher Navarre was required to accept a reduction in rank to private to transfer from an unarmed ambulance company of the 429th medical ambulance battalion to join the 761st Tank Battalion in armed combat (as there was no vacancy for a First Sergeant in a black combat unit.) He remained on the front line as a tank gunner until the end of the war. In 1997, then retired Chief Warrant Officer Chistopher Navarre, Sr, received the Silver Star for actions in Task Force Rhine (in March of 1945). Navarre ceremonyQuoting the 761st Newsletter of December, 2005,First Sergeant Navarre "Before retiring from the United States Army in 1963, Chief Warrant Officer Christopher P. Navarre served in a number of different units, including the 116th Combat Engineers in Korea and the 1st Cavalry Division in Japan, but he never really left the 761st Tank Battalion behind. Over the years he has worked tirelessly to ensure that the veterans of the 761st (and for that matter, all veterans) are remembered and that their sacrifices are acknowledged. He has been responsible for a special display at the Fort Lewis Military Museum in Washington." Mr. Navarre entered the Army in 1940 at the age of 23, prior to Pearl Harbor, Navarre Resolutionunder segregated conditions and was first assigned to the 25th infantry regiment at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, a unit that was composed of white officers, Native American Indian scouts and all black enlisted men.

Click here for a special report on the Johnnie Stevens medal award by Joe Wilson, Jr.

Stevens receives French Legion of HonorMonday, May 8, 2006, on the 61st anniversary of V-E Day, a French Legion of Honor medal was presented by Francois Delattre, the Consul General of France, during a ceremony at the French Consulate in New York City to the 761st Tank Battalion's Staff Sgt. Johnnie Stevens, Jr., of Carteret, New Jersey, and several additional recipients. The National Order of the Legion of Honor, was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte on May 19, 1802, as the most senior Order in France (starting with the reign of Louis Philippe, the Legion of Honor became the sole French national order, although a second national order, the National Order of Merit, was instituted in 1963 as a compliment.) A National Museum of the Legion of Honor and the Orders of Chivalry was founded in the Palace of the Grand Chancellery in 1925. Appointment to the Legion is considered a great honour recognizing eminent service to the Republic of France. The medal is an enameled star of five rays surmounted on a wreath of leaves, a gold medallion in the center having a set of crossed tricolore, surrounded by the Legion's motto Honneur et patrie (Honour and Fatherland) and its foundation date in a blue enamel ring.

S. Sgt. Johnnie StevensAs shown by his certificate (click the certificate image, to the left, to see an enlarged version in a new window) the award designates Johnnie Stevens a Chevalier (or Knight) of the Legion of Honor. The French government established criteria for a selection process allowing the French Legion of Honor Medal to be be presented to U.S. Army, Army Air Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard veterans participating in one of the four major campaigns in the liberation of France (Normandy, Southern France, Northern France and the Ardennes) during World War II. Ten French consulates in the U.S. are involved in distribution of the awards, and the French government asked the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs for assistance in identifying qualified US veterans for consideration in awarding the Legion of Honor Medal.

French Legion of Honor Medal SSGT Stevens was one of the first recipients under this recent award designation. Eligible veterans must have written documentation (normally a copy of their military separation order, DD - 214, and other official orders) verifying their military history during combat, and any previous military awards such as the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, etc. indicating meritorious actions during combat operations. Copies of these documents should be forwarded with the request for consideration for the French Legion of Honor to the Defense Attache, Embassy of France, 4101 Reservoir Road, NW, Washington, DC 20007. The French medals are approved by the Legion of Honor Committee in Paris, France after appropriate review. Approximately 100 French Legion of Honor medals will be awarded each year in the United States at the home of each veteran or at a public ceremony during a patriotic holiday event. Arrangements will be made after the awardees have been notified. Additional information can be provided by the French Defense Attache at (202) 944 6502 or FAX (202) 944 6538, and by Robert F. Elliott, VHA Liaison Officer, Policy, Planning, and Preparedness, (202) 273 - 9559. Further information about the May 8th award ceremony for SSGT Stevens may be obtained from the Consulate General of France in New York, 934 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10021, (212) 606-3600.