Three Missouri World War Two veterans have received France’s Legion of Honor medal, the highest award given by the French government for service to that country. They were recognized today at a ceremony at the Missouri State Capitol hosted by Governor Jay Nixon.
Frank Crooks, 87, is a St. Joseph native who now lives in Jefferson City. He served in the Army Air Forces as a turret gunner in a B-26 Marauder bomber. His plane was forced to make an emergency landing at a German airstrip after being hit by enemy flack over France.
“We got out of the airplane, (and) we didn’t know where we were," Crooks said. "We though we’d probably end up being prisoners, (but) the Germans had pulled out five days before, so it was back in French control.”
After the war, Crooks rejoined the Air Force, and prior to retirement reached the rank of Brigadier General in the Missouri Air National Guard.
Francis "Bud" Jones, 90, was a fighter pilot in the Army Air Forces, flying P-40’s and P-47’s in battles over Italy and France.
“We were down on the deck most of the time strafing trains and trucks, motor equipment, gun emplacements, fuel dumps," Jones said. "We were strafing everything on the ground that would bother the ground troops...that was our mission.”
Jones later became a flight instructor, and in later years served simultaneously in the Air Force Reserve and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Lloyd Cain, 88, served in the U.S. Army in both France and Germany. During one battle he exposed himself to enemy fire while doing spotter duty for mortars. Cain also fought in the Korean War and served as an advisor to the South Vietnamese Army during the Vietnam War. He retired with the rank of Colonel.
Crooks, Jones and Cain all live in Jefferson City.