PERRY, Iowa — Two Iowa soldiers received top honors from the French government for their service during World War II.
92-year-old Mahlon Conaway of Perry and 93-year-old Mancel King of Des Moines were awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honor. The medal is France’s highest military distinction.
“They fought bravely battle after battle across France and witnessed the worst of the war. Many did not return but they are in our heart. Fortunately, Mr. Conaway and Mr. King, you are among us to help us remember,” said French Consulate General Vincent Floreani.
Floreani pinned the medals on the men at a Memorial Day Ceremony in Perry.
“I wasn’t a big hero,” explained Conaway, “I had a few heroes that are still over there.”
The rifleman and driver in the 36th Division, 142nd Infantry remembers Liberation Day, August 25, 1944. Conaway says the French couldn’t stop thanking him for ending four years of Nazi rule.
“Those guys think I liberated this town myself you know but I’m just one of probably about 80,” Conaway said.
“Legion of Honor. That sounds pretty impressive to me,” King said.
King flew a B-24 Liberator in the war. On his second-to-last mission, he was shot down by German fire.
“It’s been quite a while, 70 years. Bangin’ Lulu was a pretty famous airplane,” King said.
All these years later, the legacy of these liberators lives on.
“It’s a beauty too, isn’t it? “ asks King with his new medal pinned to his chest.
“It is quite an honor. I just hope that I deserve it,” Conaway said.
The Legion of Honor dates back to 1802. Napoleon Bonaparte established the award with the motto “honor and fatherland”.