BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Frank DeVita, of Bridgewater, recently received the French Legion of Honour, France’s highest military award, when he went to Normandy for the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
DeVita, 89, volunteered for service during World War II, and was then assigned to the USS Samuel Chase, a Coast Guard-manned United States Navy attack transport, which serviced both the Normandy and Provence campaigns during the Liberation of France.
During the two campaigns, DeVita crewed a Higgins Landing Craft, taking the U.S. 1st Infantry Division to Omaha Beach June 6, 1944, as well as the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division to the beaches of the St. Tropez peninsula in August 1944.
DeVita traveled back to Normandy for the 70th anniversary with 32 family and friends, participating in the ceremonies and celebrations.
DeVita received the city’s medallion in a ceremony June 3 with Patrick Jardin, the mayor of Arromanches, which is home of the British Mulberry system that was deployed on D-Day.
Next, DeVita received a commemorative medallion from the Normandy Memorial Association, and was interviewed by Tom Brokaw and the NBC’s “Today Show” on June 4.
Finally, on June 5, DeVita was awarded the Legion of Honour in an international ceremony with ex-servicemen from Britain, Canada, Australia and Poland. The ceremony was officiated by the Prefecture of Calvados, a senior French administrator speaking for the French president.
The Legion of Honour was established by Napoleon in 1802 for excellent civilian or military conduct, and is the highest award given by the French government for military and civil acts. It is rarely given to foreigners.
On June 6, DeVita attended a ceremony at Omaha Beach where he met the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, numerous military leaders and President Barack Obama.
DeVita also met a veteran of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division, who was on the ship he delivered to Omaha Beach 70 years ago.
Finally, DeVita served as grand marshall at a parade in Sainte-Mère-Église.
“Love your freedom,” DeVita said, “because that’s what we fought for.”