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Thursday, 02 November 2017 14:35

Local World War II vet honored

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Paul Willis, 96, a World War II veteran from Canton, was awarded the French Legion of Honor by the French Consul General, Louis de Corail, at a recent ceremony in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The Legion of Honor, established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, is awarded for service to France and is its most prestigious honor. Willis and one other WWII Veteran, James Mynatt, from Knoxville, were presented the Knight’s Badge as a pledge of France’s eternal gratitude for their courage and fight, after risking their lives for the freedom of France and Europe during the war.

Technical Sergeant Willis was a member of Company G, 329th Infantry, 83rd Division, U.S. Army, and fought battles in the Normandy, Brittany, and Loire Valley campaigns in France. In all, he served for three years during the war and was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in the Battle of the Bulge. Other campaigns in which he saw action were the Hurtgen Forest, Central Europe, and Rhineland.

First Lt. James Mynatt was a B-24 Co-Pilot stationed in England during WWII, and flew two missions over Normandy, France on D-Day, and also over Northern France and Germany.

Also present at the ceremony, which was held at the Sherrill Hills Retirement Community Theatre, were Amelie De Gaulle, grand niece of the late President of France, Charles De Gaulle, and officers of Alliance Francaise Knoxville. Consul General Louis de Corail, who represents France in six Southeastern states, including Tennessee and North Carolina, presented the award on behalf of French President Emmanuel Macron.

Willis, who worked at Champion Paper and Fibre Company before retiring, has remained active in the Canton community, teaching Sunday School, speaking at school events, and writing poetry, some of which is about his war experiences. His most recent publication, Reflections Of A World War II Veteran, can be found at area bookstores.

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