SCC WWII veteran awarded one of France’s highest civilian and military honors

MITCH TRAPHAGEN PHOTO

By MITCH TRAPHAGEN

Seventy-three years ago this month, Sun City Center winter resident Charles B. “Red” Whittington helped to liberate the city of Maizières-lès-Metz, also known as Metz, in France during World War II. For his efforts, and those of the 377th Infantry Regiment under the 95th Infantry Division, he became one of the “Iron Men of Metz.”

The 95th began their offensive on Nov. 1, 1944. By Nov. 21, they held the fortifications that surrounded it. By Nov. 22, they became liberators.

Nearly three-quarters of a century later, the nation of France formally expressed their gratitude — and awarded one of their highest honors — to “Red” Whittington, for his courage and his mettle in being among the Iron Men of Metz.

In September, at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Col. Pierre-Olivier Marchand, French liaison officer at the Combined Arms Center, presented Whittington with the Knight of the French National Order of the Legion of Honour for his part in liberating Metz.

According to The Republic newspaper in Columbus, Ind., Marchand is quoted as saying, “It was an honor and privilege to pay tribute to one of the Iron Men of Metz whose bravery and determination restored hope to millions of people. France has not forgotten. France will never forget.”

“It was quite an honor,” Whittington said. The 95-year-old veteran had just arrived at his winter home from his native Indiana last week.

Whittington sustained injuries during the war, with the fourth requiring 9 months of hospitalization, bringing an end to his time in combat. A modest man, he said little about his time in battle in World War II. He didn’t mention the numerous medals and decorations he received, including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. Instead, he spoke of the honor from the award, of those men with whom he served and about his post-war life.

“I was a farmer; I was a mail carrier; I ran grain elevators; I invested in property,” he said.

According to a statement from the Consulate General of France in Chicago website, under the headline, “WWII Veteran Charles Whittington awarded the French Legion of Honor:”

“In three different engagements, during the attacks in Château Brieux, Maizières-les-Metz, and Julian-les-Metz, Mr. Whittington was wounded in combat but continued to fight on. But on Nov. 26, as his company was attempting to break the Siegfried Line and capture Teterchen, Mr. Whittington received multiple shrapnel wounds. He had to be evacuated. On Aug. 28, 1945, after 9 months of hospitalization, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army with the rank of Technical Sergeant.

For his actions during the war, Mr. Whittington has received prestigious American military awards including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart with One Oak Leaf cluster. Mr. Whittington has also been awarded the Metz Medal, which he has received in France.

“France Will Never Forget.”

And neither will Charles B. “Red” Whittington. He understands honor, and it seems he accepted it in the names of those with whom he served. The real honor, however, was in simply meeting this humble man, a native son of Indiana who has called Florida home each winter for decades; seeing his dignity and strength. “Red” Whittington quietly remains an Iron Man of Metz to this day.

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