Last week I told you about the Croix de Guerre with Palm, which is France’s fifth highest honor. This week I will tell you a little bit about France’s highest honor, the Legion of Honour, and give you a brief look through Bill Sirmon’s eyes on a night right before combat.
The French Legion of Honour is also known as the National Order of the Legion of Honour. It was established over two hundred years ago on May 19, 1802 in the time of the first Republic of France. Napolean Bonaparte created this award to commend civilians and soldiers for excellence and as recognition of merit. It is divided into five different classes: Knights, Officers, Commanders, Grand Officer, Grand Cross. Bill Sirmon received this award on February 16, 1919 and was classified in the Knight, or chevalier, category.
Excerpt From That’s War
We got into his lines about ten o’clock, but it was not until about 2:15 this morning that we finally made our attack. I had bought hemp soled “sneakers” for my men in Nancy yesterday, so we could prowl about the Boche back yard quietly. I controlled my patrol by a series of soft bird-like whistling signals. Never a word was spoken.
The hours from ten o’clock until two fifteen were nerve-racking ones. We were always conscious that the German army was all around us, and we could not tell what form his attack might take. He might be watching us, and suddenly rise up all around us, or we might be walking into another trap where he would mow us down with machine guns, and blow us too pieces with grenades. It is the unknown that man fears. Give him a definite enemy and he will make his attack daringly, but none except those who have experienced it, will ever know the terrific strain of the hours of suspense, facing the unknown.
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We were nearing our point of attack. We had circled it successfully, and were approaching from the rear. It was black darkness that shrouded our movements. Suddenly a flare went into the air. Every man dropped. Ah the flare opened up, not a man could be seen. When it had burned out, I deployed my men and moved forward. The suspense was over. We now had the enemy spotted and could make our attack. The unknown had disappeared.
Another flare went up, this time to our left flank. That was not so good. As it opened up I saw three of my men go down late. The Germans saw them too, and from front and flank they opened up on us with machine gun and rifle fire. It was plenty hot.
To read more buy a copy of That’s War!!!