George Aigen, WWII Veteran, receives the French Legion of Honor
Corporal George Aigen was just 19 when he was with the
1269th Combat Engineers Company B in April of 1945. On Thursday, April 11, as he was convalescing from a broken hip, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor.
France’s highest honor has been awarded to American WWII veterans who helped liberate France from “a time of darkness and despicable ideologies” between June 6, 1944 – May 9, 1945. Some have said that the medal doesn’t mean much because it is available to so many service members. But to those who receive it, having the French Consulate present it is the honor of a lifetime.
George was at the South Georgia Medical Center and wasn’t supposed to get up out of his wheelchair. He tried, but his daughter said no. The presentation was made by Louis de Corail, the Atlanta-based Consulate General of France.
It took 3 years of his wife, Joyce, working with the French government for Aigen to receive the honor. When he broke his hip, the process was sped up. He was surrounded by family and friends at the ceremony.
George Aigen was a soldier who helped liberate France, but he also helped liberate Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp. The 42nd and 45th Infantry Divisions along with the 20th Armored Division of the US Army were part of the liberation. Though he wouldn’t talk about the war for decades, about ten years ago a retired Valdosta State University professor urged him to tell his story. Since then, he has spoken in about 100 public forums about what he saw and experienced, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.
For the men who liberated the concentration camps during WWII, the sights, sounds, and smells were overpowering. At Dachau, box cars full of decomposing bodies, gas chambers full of human remains, all left a mark on their souls. It is no wonder it was difficult for George Aigen to speak of the horror for several decades. The following post from George’s FaceBook page tells just part of the story:
Featured photo composite- George Aigen during WWII and at the ceremony. Family photo, and one taken by Dean Polling at the Valdosta Daily Times