French Legion of Honor honors Diamond for WWII service
It was a fitting birthday gift.
Ted Diamond, a longtime town resident, was awarded France’s highest military honor, the Legion of Honor, on July 3 for his service in helping liberate France during World War II.
It was also his 98th birthday.
“I was humbled by this honor and only wish that the nine other men in my crew, who shared the missions, were alive to enjoy this honor with me,” Diamond said. “I have to admit this is one helluva birthday present.”
He said the ceremony and award brought back a flood of memories he hadn’t thought about in years.
Diamond served as an Army Air Corps combat navigator with the 15th Air Force.
He was awarded the insignia of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in recognition of his — and 23 other recipients — enduring contribution to the success of Operation Dragoon. That was part of the military campaign to help free France from Nazi domination.
Diamond is credited with 50 air missions over highly secured military installations throughout Europe. He often led a group of 28 B-17s during those missions with one mission taking them into Russia, according to a news release announcing the award.
Diamond’s 50 missions took place over a period of eight months from December 1943, when he was deployed in Europe, until August 1944 when he returned to the U.S.
Diamond said he was surprised by the honor, noting that he had an interview with a representative of the French government who recorded information about various missions he flew during the war. He said the interviewer was most interested in his 50th mission over France as part of Operation Dragoon.
“The next thing I know I got a letter from the president of France telling me about the medal,” Diamond said.
The ceremony took place on Pier 15 at the South Street Seaport in New York City, in front of the frigate Hermoine, a replica of French General Lafayette’s 18th-century ship that transported the general here in support of the Revolutionary forces led by George Washington.
The location was chosen to symbolize the historic ties that unite France and the United States to this day.
French Defense Minister Yves Le Drain, at the ceremony, said the Legion of Honor was created by Napoleon in 1902. Other French government officials also attended the ceremony, as well as Diamond’s wife of 69 years, Carol.