WWII veterans received Legion of Honor in Denver

The Consulate of France in Los Angeles is pleased to announce that the President of the French Republic has bestowed The National Order of The Legion of Honor in the rank of Chevalier (Knight) to World War II veterans 1st Lt John Williams U.S. Army Air Corps and Technical Sergeant Wilber Brunger U.S. Army, USA in recognition and of their heroic actions and precious contribution to the liberation of France during the war.

The medals were bestowed by Jeffrey Richards, Esq., Honorary Consul of France in Denver, Colorado at a private ceremony that was held at 1:00 PM on May 24, 2013 in the West Foyer of the Colorado State Capitol building, Denver CO.

Speech delivered by Jeffrey Richards

Dear 1st Lt. John Williams U.S. Army Corps
Dear Technical Sergeant Wilber (Bill) Brunger U.S. Army
Dear Family and Friends,

I am deeply honored to be with you today and I would like to thank Colonel West and Colonel Bob Johnson from afar for organizing this ceremony.

It is a pleasure to stand in front of you today as a symbol of the great and longstanding friendship between the two countries of France and the United States. I am the honorary French Consul in Denver and also I am an American born citizen of French ancestry, whose father was a U.S. Army veteran war hero, who also fought with France in WWII. This ceremony and this weekend have special significance to me.

Lt. John Williams and Technical Sgt. Wilbur Brunger, it is a privilege for me to express to you the gratitude of the people of France by bestowing upon you the highest distinction in France, the Legion of Honor today.

As young men, you left your home, to fight and liberate not only France, but the whole European Continent and defend Democracy and Human Rights.

Your accomplishments during the Second World War are a vibrant reminder of the profound friendship between France and the United States. A friendship bound in blood and hardships ever since the War of Independence.

From the glorious days of Yorktown to the grim battlefields of Chateau-Thierry, from the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan and to the skies of Libya, our countries have been fighting side by side.

Freedom is a gift that does not come for free. It often requires determination and sacrifices.

In this often dangerous world, the United States and France share a common responsibility to remain at the forefront of the battle against the evils of today, particularly terrorism, tyranny and oppression, and to help and support democratic forces wherever they are.
We also have a responsibility to rise up to the challenges of today, lest they become the wars of tomorrow: nuclear proliferation, poverty, hunger, trans-border diseases or climate change.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are here to pay tribute to two exceptional men whose dedication embodies our shared history and values.

1st Lt John Williams U. S. Army Air Corps

John Williams was born on 3 March 1921 in Oconee IL where he attended school through his high school junior year and finished high school at nearby Pana IL. He and his brother Walter enlisted in the Army in September 1940; John was 19 and 1/2 years old and his brother one year older. They were both assigned to an ordinance company however his brother was moved to a new company and shipped to the Philippines where he was captured and endured the Bataan death march, and was lost when a Japanese troop ship moving POWs was sunk by allied forces. John transferred to the Air Corps and after taking the Flight Cadet test entered flight training and was commissioned a 2nd Lt. on 20 March 1943 at Eagle Pass TX.

Six months later he was flying B24s in the 714 Bomb Squadron, 488th Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force in England. John and his crew, #48 flew their first combat mission to La Broye, Fr on Christmas Eve 1943. Crew #48 consisted of 2nd Lt’s Williams, Malewiski, Susselman, and Price and Sgt’s Doucet, Griggs, Muscarello, Kennedy, Keeling and Cadell. After completing his 18th mission the mission requirement was increased from 25 to 30 and John completed his 30th and final mission on 2 June 1944 to Beauvoir, FR. He was stationed at Seething, England when the invasion took place. He returned to Langley Field, VA and moved to Ft Sheridan where he was discharged on 16 June 1945.

His significant military awards include The WWII Victory Medal, European African Middle East Theater Ribbon with battle star, Air Medal with 3 clusters, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He and his wife and first child moved to Chicago where he earned his 1st class radio and TV license after which he joined United Air Lines as a Radio and Electronics mechanic. They moved to Colorado in 1953 and he retired from United after 34years service. John and his wife of 68 years have 5 children, 10 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.

Technical Sergeant Wilber (Bill) Brunger U. S. Army

Bill Bunger was born on 25 Apr 1923 in Denver, CO and graduated from South High School in Denver, Class of 1940. He was in church when he heard the Pearl Harbor attack news. At 19 years old he entered the service on 16 February 1943 and received basic training at Ft Belvoir, VA where he remained in a training cadre.

After the better part of a year he transferred to the Air Corps. After 10 hours of flight training and the day before he was to solo, because he had infantry training he was pulled from flight training and transferred to the 75th Infantry Division at Camp Breckinridge, KY. He was soon a platoon Sgt and entered combat with Company B, 1st Battalion, 289th Regiment, 75th Infantry Division on 24 December 1944 in the Battle of the Bulge.

Then to Alsace-Lorraine with the US 7th Army under the 1st French Army. Next to Holland to relieve the British 6th Airborne. After crossing the Maas river reverted to the US 9th Army crossing the Rhine and fighting in Germany until VE day. Bill was discharged on 12 November 1945. Bills significant military awards include the Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star with V and three clusters, Good Conduct, American Campaign European-African-Middle East with three battle stars, WWII Victory and French Campaign Rhine ET Danube Medal. After a short college try he joined his father and started Arapaho Plumbing and Heating and stayed with that business until 1988. Bill and his wife of 33 years Janet enjoy Bill’s 5 children. 7 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren.

Lt. Williams,
Tech Sgt. Brunger,

In recognition of your heroic actions and extraordinary accomplishments, the President of the French Republic has appointed you to the Legion of Honor.

The French people will never forget that you helped restore their freedom. Your courage and dedication is an example to us all and I hope this example will inspire younger generations. Today, we also remember the ultimate sacrifice of many of your comrades who rest in the soil of France. They will forever remain in our hearts. Long live the United States of America, long live Franco-American Friendship, Vive la France!

Lt. John Williams, Technical Sgt. Wilbur Brunger, au nom du Président de la République française, je vous remets les insignes de Chevalier dans l’Ordre de la Légion d’Honneur.

Pictures of the Ceremony

Jeffrey Richards, Bill Brunger, John Williams

Irene Williams, John Williams and Jeffrey Richards

Wesley West, Bill & Janet Brunger and Jeffrey Richards

BG Karmazin, Bill Brunger, Jeffrey Richards and Chaplain Col Meverden

Wesley West and John Williams

John Williams and great grandson

Last modified on 28/07/2016

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