News: World War II Vets of Texas Knighted with Legion of Honor
Story by Sgt. Barry St. Clair
EL PASO, Texas – American soldiers of WWII, Lt. Col. [Retired] Robert Chisolm of Dallas, Texas, former Staff Sgt. Armondo Sabrano and former Pfc. Angel Romero of El Paso, Texas and William J. Elser, of NY were knighted by the French Consul General Frederic Bontems here today, for their participation that led to the liberation of Paris, France on Aug. 24 – 25, 1944.
The National Order of the Legion of Honor is France’s highest honor and began during the French Revolution by Napoleon Bonaparte on May 19, 1802. The highest class of the Legion of Honor is the Chevalier [Knight].
Chevalier Ordre National de la Legion de’honneur was awarded to four American soldiers [Elser was not present] by the French Consul General Frederic Bontems who represented France for the award honoring the courage and bravery of those who contributed to the liberation of France in 1944 from German control.
“France has a lengthy relationship with both America and Texas,” said Bontems.
“It was the French who first called the Americas ‘United’ states during the American Revolution.
“France also signed a treaty with the Republic of Texas in 1839 establishing free trade between our states,” Bontems said.
A brief history of the awardees was included during the award ceremony held at the Home of the 82nd Airborne Division Association, Benavidez-Patterson Chapter in El Paso, Texas.
Chisolm was assigned to Kilo Company, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division and Romero to Golf Company, 508th PIR, 82nd AD. They both jumped into Normandy, France on D-day June 6, 1944.
Sabrano would follow on June 11, with Kilo Company, 1st Infantry Division on Omaha beach.
Chisolm was wounded on his 19th birthday June 23, and was evacuated to 22 General Hospital in England. He returned to his unit late in August in time for the jump into Holland.
Romero was wounded three times and continued through France, Belgium and jumped into Holland. He also was at the Battle of the Bulge and Market Garden campaigns.
“We are here today because of those who stood with us,” said Romero.
“Many of them gave their lives for us,” added Chisolm.
Sabrano stayed with 1st ID through Belgium, and into Germany. He was promoted to Staff Sgt. when his squad leader was wounded for the third time and return home to America.
Sabrano and about 40 others surrendered to the Germans at the Battle of Hurtgen Forest Oct. 17, 1944. They were out of ammunition, had no gas to move their tanks, and the artillery was unable to support them because they were out of munitions.
Sabrano eventually was released by the Germans as their campaign dissolved. He and the others walked from Kustrin, Germany to Odessa, Ukraine, 1053 miles, where he boarded ship to Naples, Italy. He returned to the U. S. and was sent to Fort Bliss, Texas where he supervised German POWs at the post laundry facility.
“It was wonderful to receive this honor today from France,” said Sabrano.
“I am deeply humbled and honored to stand in the presence of these great men of such high character today,” said Maj. Gen. Dana J. H. Pittard of El Paso, Texas, commander for 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss, Texas.