The Legion of Honour, or in full, the National Order of the Legion of Honour (French: Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur) is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the First Republic, on 19 May 1802. The Order is the highest decoration in France and is divided into five various degrees: Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Grand Officier (Grand Officer) and Grand Croix (Grand Cross).
The order's motto is Honneur et Patrie ("Honour and Motherland"). Its seat is the Palais de la Légion d'Honneur on the left bank of the River Seine in Paris.
In the French Revolution all French orders of chivalry were abolished. It was the wish of Napoleon Bonaparte, the First Consul and de facto sole ruler, to create a reward to commend civilians and soldiers. From this wish was instituted a Légion d'Honneur, a body of men that was not an order of chivalry, for Napoleon knew that France did not want a new nobility system, but a recognition of merit. The Légion used the organisation of old French Orders of Chivalry, like the Ordre de Saint-Louis. The badges of the legion do bear a resemblance to the Order of Saint Louis, which also used a red ribbon.
Napoleon, as emperor, always wore the cross and Grand Eagle of the Légion d'Honneur. The Légion was loosely patterned after a Roman Legion, with legionaries, officers, commanders, regional "cohorts" and a grand council. The Emperor angrily rebuked anyone who called this institution an order. The highest rank was not a grand cross but a grand aigle (great eagle), a rank that wore all the insignia common to grand crosses. The members were paid. The highest of them extremely generously.
First remittance of the Légion d'Honneur, 15 July 1804, at Saint-Louis des Invalides, by Jean-Baptiste Debret (1812). According to some sources Napoleon declared: "We call these children's toys, I know, it's been said already. Well, I replied that it's with such toys that one leads men."
The order was the first modern order of merit. The orders of the monarchy were often limited to Roman Catholics and all knights had to be noblemen. The military decorations were the perks of the officers. The Légion, however, was open to men of all ranks and professions. Only merit or bravery counted. The new legionnaire had to be sworn in the Légion.
It is noteworthy that all previous orders were crosses or shared a clear Christian background, whereas the Légion is a secular institution. The jewel of the legion has five arms.
Napoleon Bonaparte awarded some of the first Légions d'honneur' on 16 August 1804 at the camp of Boulogne. In a decree issued on the tenth Pluviose XIII (30 January 1805) a grand decoration was instituted. This decoration, a cross on a large sash and a silver star with an eagle became known as the Grand Aigle, and later in 1814 as the grand cordon (French for "large sash"). After the reestablishment of the nobility in 1808, award of the Légion gave right to the title of "Knight of the Empire" (chevalier de l'empire). The title was made hereditary after three generations of grantees.
Napoleon had dispensed 15 golden collars of the legion among his family and his senior ministers. This collar was abolished in 1815.
Although research is made difficult by the loss of the archives, it is known that three women who fought with the army were decorated with the order: Virginie Ghesquière, Marie-Jeanne Schelling and a nun, Sister Anne Biget.
The Légion d'honneur was prominent and visible in the empire. The Emperor always wore it and the fashion of the time allowed for decorations to be worn most of the time. The king of Sweden therefore refused the order. It was too common in his eyes. Napoleon's own decorations were captured by the Prussians and were displayed in the Zeughaus (armory) in Berlin until 1945. Today, they are in Moscow.
Restoration of the Bourbon Kings in 1814 Insignia with figure of Henry IV Certificate. Louis XVIII changed the appearance of the order, but it was not abolished. This would have angered the 35-38,000 members. The images of Napoleon and his eagle were removed and replaced by the image of King Henry IV, the popular first king of the Bourbon line. Three Bourbon Lilies (fleur-de-lys) replaced the eagle on the reverse of the order. A king's crown replaced the imperial crown. In 1816 the grand cordons were renamed grand crosses and the legionnaires became knights. The king decreed that the commandants were now commanders. The legion became the second order of knighthood of the French monarchy, after the Order of the Holy Spirit.
Louis-Philippe, King of the French, wore the sash of the order. He was France's first constitutional monarch. King Louis-Philippe of the House of Orleans restored the order of the Légion d'honneur in 1830 as the paramount decoration of the French nation. The insignia were drastically altered. The cross now displayed tricolour flags. Louis-Philippe abolished the other orders of the monarchy. In 1847, there were 47,000 members.
Yet another revolt in Paris (1848) brought a new republic and a new design to the Légion d'honneur. A nephew of the founder, Prince Napoleon was elected president and he restored the image of his uncle on the crosses of the order. In 1852 the first recorded woman, Angélique Duchemin, an old revolutionary of the 1789 uprising against the absolute monarchy, was admitted into the order. President Napoleon staged a coup d'état and made himself emperor of the French in 1852.
An Imperial crown was added. During Napoleon III's reign, the first American was admitted: Dr. Thomas Wiltberger Evans, dentist of Napoleon III.
In 1870 the defeat of the army in the Franco-Prussian war brought another Republic. As France changed, the Légion d'honneur changed as well. The crown was replaced by a laurel and oak wreath. In 1871, during the Paris Commune, the Hôtel de Salm, headquarters of the Légion, was burned to the ground in street fighting. The archives of the order were lost.
In the second term of Jules Grévy, newspaper journalists brought to light the trafficking of Grévy's son-in-law, Daniel Wilson, in the awarding of decorations of the Légion d'Honneur. Grévy was not accused of personal participation in these scandals, but he was slow to accept his indirect responsibility, which caused his eventual resignation on 2 December 1887.
During the First World War, some 55,000 decorations were conferred, 20,000 of those to foreigners. The large number of decorations results from the new posthumous awards authorized in 1918. Traditionally membership in the Légion could not be awarded posthumously.
Current organization and officers
The President of the French Republic is the Grand Master of the Order and appoints all other members of the Order—by convention, on the advice of the Government. Its principal officers are the Chancellor and Secretary-General.
Current officers of the Order include:
Grand Master: Nicolas Sarkozy Grand Chancellor: General Jean-Louis Georgelin since the 9th of June 2010 Secretary-General: Luc Fons since 2007 The Grand Master's insignia is the Grand Collar of the Legion. Only the President of the Republic, as Grand Master of the Order, wears a Grand Collar.
French nationals, men and women, can be received into the légion, for "eminent merit" (mérites éminents) in military or civil life. In practice, in current usage, the order is conferred, in addition to military recipients, to many entrepreneurs, high-level civil servants, sport champions, as well as other people with high connections in the executive. The members of the French Parliament cannot receive the order, except for valour in war. Ministers are not allowed to nominate their accountants.
French nationals initially always enter the légion at the class of chevalier (knight). To be promoted to a higher class, one must prove new services to France and a set number of years must pass between appointment and promotion. The only exception is the President of the Republic, who is made a grand cross upon his accession to the presidency. Foreigners are not admitted in the légion as such, but may be decorated with the insignia of the légion. A foreigner can be decorated directly with the insignia of a higher class. Foreign heads of state and the wives or consorts of monarchs are made Grand Cross as a courtesy.
Another man awarded with the Légion d'honneur was Gustave Camoin- a reporter for Agence France Presse. His award was for reporting the scuttling of the French Fleet off Toulon against the wishes of the Gestapo and Germans. For this, he suffered an all night interrogation by the Gestapo, but they could not harm him as he was a public figure. Camille Papin Tissot a French radio pioneer, experimental physicist, Légion d’honneur en 1901, officier légion d’honneur en 1909.
The Order has a maximum quota of 75 Grand Cross, 250 Grand Officers, 1,250 Commanders, 10,000 Officers and 113,425 (ordinary) Knights. As of 2000 the actual membership was 61 Grand Cross, 321 Grand Officers, 3,626 Commanders, 22,401 Officers and 87,371 Knights.
Appointments of veterans of the Second World War, French military personnel involved in the North African Campaign and other foreign French military operations, as well as wounded soldiers, are made independently of the quota.
Frank Buckles, the last surviving American soldier of the First World War, wore the chevalier's insignia. In 1998, all surviving veterans of the First World War from any allied country who had fought on French soil were made Knights of the Légion if they were not so already, as part of the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the war's end. In December 2004, on the occasion of his 110th birthday, France's oldest surviving veteran of the war, Maurice Floquet, was promoted to Officer. On 9 and 16 March 2009, Harry Patch and Henry Allingham were also promoted to Officer.
Members convicted of a felony (crime in French) are dismissed from the order. Members convicted of a misdemeanour (délit in French) can be dismissed too.
Wearing the decoration of the Légion d'honneur without having the right to do so is an offence. Wearing the ribbon or rosette of a foreign order of knighthood is prohibited if that ribbon is mainly red, like the ribbon of the Légion.
French military members in uniform must salute other military members in uniform wearing the medal, whatever the Légion d'honneur rank and the military rank of the bearer. This is not mandatory with the ribbon. In practice, this is rarely done.
35th Division Veterans Who Have Received This Award (current 10/10)
- Eugene E. Adams, K-137
- Cecil Atkins, I-137
- Roy I. Albert, B-134
- Louis T. Albertini, L-134
- Paul W. Baade, Cmdr 35th ID, HQ-35
- Frank Barieza, H-320
- Lewis A. Barondeau, HQ-1-134
- Burnett G. Bartley, Jr., H-2-137 & I-3-137
- Samuel E. Belk III, B-320
- Donald L. Black, AT-137
- Robert Blitz, H-320
- Robert Belsky, I-320
- Norman T. Bibeau, Med-320
- Joseph E. Biehler, M-320
- David G. Brandt, E-320
- Keith N. Bullock, HQ-2-137
- Bernard A. Byrne, HQ-320
- Lowell D. Chambers, C-137
- Anthony N. Checki, 216FA
- Glenn W. Clark, HQ-320
- Leon B. Cohen, 110th Med Bn
- Joseph Conace, M-134
- William H. Craft, G-137
- Augustine D'Amico, C-320
- Carmen D. D'Angelo, G-134
- Paul Dervay, HQ-134
- Clarence F. Douglass, HQ-320
- John R. Emmert, F-1-320
- Alfred Endres, D-320
- Gordon R. Engle, C-137
- Kenneth L. Faulkner, C-137
- Theodore L. Futch, HQ-35 ARTY
- Marvin J. Gary, I-137 & HQ-3-137
- Arthur Germano, C-320
- Benjamin Guskin, B-320
- Lyons A. Hamblen, A-137 & HQ-35
- Walter R. Harrington, F-320
- Henry E. Harvey, HQ-1-320
- Elliott M. Herring, F-134
- Robert R. Holmes, G-2-137
- Martin H. Huschka, C-161FA
- James Huston, 134
- Donald J. Jewell, B Co. 110th Med-137
- Thomas J. Kennedy, B-137 & HQ-69 Bde
- Robert H. Kenney, H-320
- John Kerner, 110th Med-320
- L.P. Lane, F-320
- Murray Leff, E-2-137
- Noel R. Long, F-2-137
- William McWha, L-137 & HQ-3-137
- Harry C. Menz, I-137
- Butler M. Miltonberger, Asst Cmdr 35th HQ-35
- Henry G. Morgan, C-320 & B-320
- Abelardo R. Navarette, L-320
- William C. Notley, E-320
- Samuel G. O'Brien, HQ-320
- Robert E. Phillips, D-320
- William H. Sachs, Jr., G-137
- Edmund B. Sebree, Asst Cmdr 35th HQ-35
- Edward Schaefer, C-320
- Raymond A. Schrader, 137
- Riley P. Shirley, A-320
- George Snow, G-134
- Joe G. Thompson, E-320
- Jack L. Ulmer, M-137
- John F. Walsh, CN-320
- John K. Werner, K-320