Mo. war veteran honored by France
By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio
Jefferson City, Mo. – A World War Two veteran from Missouri has received France's highest honor for his actions while helping to liberate the country during the war.
Gilbert Pritzel, now 86, was 18 years old when he was sent to Europe as part of the U.S. Army's Third Infantry Division. He took part in two invasions of Italy, and in the invasion of southern France in 1944.
Sixty-six years later, the French government has named Pritzel a Knight of the Legion of Honor.
"I always thought a lot of the French people," Pritzel said. "Whenever we was in combat, whenever you went into a town, they was always there to give you something to eat...you didn't have to eat that stuff out of a can."
Pritzel received his Legion of Honor medal from Governor Jay Nixon during a ceremony today at the State Capitol.
Pritzel has also been awarded five Bronze Stars for his actions in France and Italy. He says, though, that he once came close to shooting a future U.S. president, General Dwight Eisenhower.
"I heard somebody coming up the walk," Pritzel said. "(Eisenhower) never did say anything when I hollered (for) the password, so I just got around in front of the truck, and when he come around past the front of the truck, why, I stuck that gun barrel in his belly and he gave the password real quick!"
Pritzel says Eisenhower congratulated him for doing a good job. Ironically, Eisenhower was also a Legion of Honor recipient.
Other Americans to receive the honor include aviator Charles Lindbergh, actor and director Clint Eastwood, and economist Alan Greenspan.