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Coloradans receive French Legion of Honor medal for World War II service

Feb. 4, 2019 


Terry Frei 


 French Consul General Christophe Lemoine awards former B-17 bomber tail gunner Philip Daily of Brighton the Legion of Honor medal Monday in Windsor. Daily’s plane was shot down on his 25th mission and he was interned in Stalag Luft IV until he survived a horrific forced march as the war in Europe was winding down. (Michael Brian)

WINDSOR — Five times Monday afternoon, French Consul General Christophe Lemoine spoke in French, pinned a Legion of Honor medal on an elderly Colorado veteran of the European Theater in World War II, and embraced the recipient.

Lemoine presented the medal to military nurse Leila Morrison of Windsor; B-24 pilot Bill Powell of Fort Collins; B-17 tail gunner Philip Daily of Brighton; B-17 ball turret gunner Harry Maroncelli of Fort Collins; and B-17 bombardier Armand Sedgeley of Lakewood.

Lemoine’s French message was a mandatory part of his country’s highest award, designated in five degrees, and the Coloradans Monday afternoon received the Chevalier, or Knight, version of the medal in the packed chapel at the Good Samaritan Retirement Village.

In French, Lemoine told each one, per the prescribed ritual: “On behalf of French president, and according to the powers given me, I bestow upon you the Medal of Chevalier in the Order of the Legion of Honor.”

In a conversation after the ceremony, Lemoine said why his nation was doing this — and why now, nearly 75 years after the contributions of U.S. forces were crucial in liberating France from German control.


 Leila Morrison, Armand Sedgeley, and Bill Powell sing the national anthem prior to being awarded the Legion of Honor medal by French Consul General Christophe Lemoine. (Michael Brian)

“It’s very important to remember what happened,” the Los Angeles-based Lemoine said. “It’s very important to remember who came to liberate us and free Europe. It’s important to remember that the American Army was at that time engaged in liberating Europe. The Europe we have now and the France we have now is thanks to them.

“So it’s very important to do it. It’s very important to remember that they went to Europe and they made sacrifices.”

The ceremony also honored Tank Battalion Capt. Joe Graham, father of former Colorado State University athletic director Jack Graham, whose medal was approved and in the works when he passed away last year. Jack Graham received his father’s medal separately.

Lemoine said he makes such presentations about once a month.

“Today, we have five veterans,” he said. “Sometimes it’s less and sometimes it’s more. The other counsels in the U.S. also do it on a regular basis. . . We do remember the Greatest Generation and we remember what happened. Europe went through two world wars. All over Europe, you can still see the aftermath of World War II, so it’s something that is very present and important to us.

“Those ceremonies are always very special for me as a French person. I was born in the ’70s, but you see it and my grandparents went through all of this. This is something that for Europeans, really does exist. On top of it, it is a great ceremony and gathering of families, and a special moment. So I’m very happy to do it.”


 French Consul General Christophe Lemoine pins the Legion of Honor medal on Harry Maroncelli. (Michael Brian)

The recipients were grateful, and friends and family members scrambled for position to take pictures for posterity.

“This is a very special honor that I didn’t really expect to see after 75 years,” said Powell, whose plane went down on his 10th mission before he spent the rest of  the war in the Stalag Luft I prison camp. “But I’m very, very thankful for the presentation, and also for the turnout here. It’s wonderful.”

Morrison, a combat nurse with the 118th Evacuation Hospital, including at the Buchenwald concentration camp after its liberation, said simply: “I was just so thankful to serve. I was very thankful that I had the skills of a nurse, because I know we saved lives.”

She conceded it was an emotional day for her.

“A lot of memories,” she said. “Some good. Some bad.”

 French Legion of Honor Medal


A look at the five living Coloradans receiving the French Legion of Honor medal on Monday, Feb. 4 in Windsor:

— Bill Powell of Fort Collins, B-24 pilot; and Philip Daily of Brighton, B-17 tail gunner. Read Terry Frei’s dual portrait of Powell and Daily, who both were POWs in Stalag Luft camps, here.

— Harry Maroncelli of Fort Collins, B-17 ball turret gunner. Read Frei’s profile of Maroncelli here.

— Armand Sedgeley of Lakewood, B-17 bombardier. Kevin Simpson, now with the Colorado Sun, but then with the Denver Post, wrote about Sedgeley here.

Also recognized was the late Joe Graham, a tank battalion captain whose medal was in the works before he died last year. His son, Jack, received his medal. Read Frei’s profile of Joe Graham here.

Among the major champions of Colorado World War II veterans’

causes are Lt. Col. Frank Huffman, former executive officer of ROTC at Colorado State University, and Brad Hoopes of RememberandHonor.com. Hoopes also served as liaison with the French consulate about the Legion of Honor medal.


Lt. Col. Frank Huffman, the former executive officer of ROTC at CSU, was the master of ceremonies for the event, and his introductions of the recipients included detail slide shows outlining their service. Much information also has come from Brad Hoopes of Remember and Honor, who had interviewed the recipients and produced individual DVDs of their remembrances. He also was the major liaison with the French representatives.

Story on Greeley Tribune site 








 Military photos of the recipients of the French Legion of Honor medal Monday, with the DVDs of interviews conducted with them by Brad Hoopes of Rememberandhonor.com. (Terry Frei )