Six veterans, including two from the Valley, will be awarded France’s highest distinction for their participation in the liberation of France during the Second World War.

WW II Veterans Daniel Buzeck, 95 of New Franklin, Ohio, Claude J. Koon, 94 of Salem, Ohio, Albert J. Kosiba, 98 of Warren, Ohio, Paul Arnone, 95 of Jamestown, New York, William H. Cook Jr. of Parker, Pa., and Richard L. Wilczewski, 94 of Erie, Pa. Will be presented with the French Legion of Honor during the 2019 D-Day Ohio event in Conneaut, Ohio this weekend.

The French Legion of Honor is the highest distinction that France can bestow upon those who have achieved remarkable deeds for France.

Founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the National Order of the Legion of Honor recognizes eminent service to the French Republic. Recipients of this honor are named by a decree signed by the President of the Republic.

Among the local recipients is Albert J. Kosiba of Warren, Ohio. Born on October 2, 1920, in Hubbard, Kosiba served the 740th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion as Chief Radar Operator; Sergeant Al Kosiba landed on Omaha Beach via an LST in early July 1944. He participated in the Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland and Ground Combat battles and campaigns. The unit initially set up camp five miles north of St. Lo near a 9th Air Force airfield and followed the air group providing airfield protection as the battlefront advanced towards Paris. After Paris was liberated, the unit provided airspace protection southeast of the city. As the advance continued, the 740th AAA relocated to the west and entered Belgium aiming their guns at over 8100 V1 Buzz Bombs bombarding Antwerp. For his service, Mr. KOSIBA was awarded the European-African-Middle Eastern Medal with four (4) Bronze Battle Stars, the Good Conduct Medal, the American Campaign Medal, and the WWII Victory Medal.

Claude J. Koon of Salem, Ohio was born on December 11, 1924, in Queens, WV. Serving the unit as a Rigger and Radio Operator, Sergeant Claude Koon of the 299th Engineer Battalion participated in the Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes, and Central Europe campaigns. He landed landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day plus 14. After disembarking, the men marched inland before settling in as replacements for members of the group killed or wounded during the initial landings on 6 June 1944. The 299th mission was to build and repair bridges, maintain roads, operate gravel pits, build water distribution points, and operate stone quarries. For his service, Mr. Koon was awarded the Distinguished Unit Badge, the European-African-Middle Eastern Medal with five (5) Bronze Campaign Stars, the Good Conduct Medal, and the WWII Victory Medal.

Other honorees include:

Daniel Buzek, born on August 1st, 1924 in Akron, Ohio. Serving aboard the LST 994 as a Motor Machinist Mate Third Class, Mr. Buzek participated in the invasion of Southern France. On August 12th, 1944, the Landing Ship Tank departed for the amphibious operation codenamed Operation Dragoon landing near St Raphael on the 16th of August. Until late October 1944, LST 994 transported men, equipment, supplies and enemy POW’s between Italy, France, Corsica, Tunisia, and Algeria in support of amphibious operations. For his service, Mr. Buzek was awarded the American Campaign Area Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one (1) Campaign Star for the Invasion of Southern France, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, and the WWII Victory Medal.

Paul Arnone born on July 13, 1924, in Pennsylvania. Serving as a Signalman First Class aboard LST 44, Mr. Arnone arrived mid-morning on June 6th, 1944 on Gold Beach, Normandy France with army equipment and supplies to support of our British allies. After discharging the cargo, the LST took aboard casualties for its return to England. LST 44 landed 27 times in France supplying the troops with food and medical supplies and bringing in replacements for those wounded or killed. Subsequent trips to Le Havre, Rouen, and Cherbourg completed Mr. Arnone's mission in Normandy and France as a whole. LST-44 then sailed into the Pacific to take part in the Asiatic Theater of Operations. For his service, Mr. ARNONE was awarded the European-African-Middle Eastern Medal with one (1) Bronze Battle Stars for the Invasion of Normandy, the Asian Pacific Area Victory Medal, the American Campaign Medal, and the Army of Occupation Medal.

William H. Cook Jr. born on July 11, 1922, in Hillard, Pennsylvania. Serving as a Machine Gunner within the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, Private First Class Bill Cook parachuted into Normandy on D-Day June 6th, 1944. As daylight broke, 25 fellow paratroopers engaged the enemy in small arms fire throughout the day. On June 7th, naval artillery was called in to support the paratroopers. The first rounds were right on target; the second salvo came down short on the paratroopers wounding Trooper Cook. After his recovery, Mr. Cook rejoined his unit for the jump into Holland, where he was wounded again. After recovering a second time, he was reassigned to the 491st Bomb Group and prepared bomber crews for combat missions. During the war, Mr. Cook participated in the Normandy, Northern France, Southern France, Rhineland, Ardennes, Central Europe, and Air Offensive Europe campaigns. For his service, Mr. Cook was awarded the European-African-Middle Eastern Medal with seven (7) Bronze Battle Stars, the Distinguished Unit Badge with three (3) Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Offensive Europe Medal, the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Parachutists Badge, the Good Conduct Medal, the WWII Victory Medal, and the Carbine Marksman Badge. Mr. Cook passed away in 2018. His son in law James Weeter will be accepting the Legion d'honneur Medal on his behalf.

Richard L. Wilczewski, born on April 10, 1925, in Erie, Pennsylvania. Serving aboard LST 497 as Ships Cook First Class, Richard landed upon Omaha Beach on D-Day. Up on deck, SC1c Wilczewski manned a 20mm Bofors gun. Upon departure from Omaha Beach, the ship carried 101 casualties back to England tended to by two doctors and 30 medics. Richard was pressed into helping load the casualties. On 51 subsequent trips across the channel, LST 497 delivered men, food, medicines, gasoline, jeeps, LCVP landing craft, LCT landing craft, and other items to either shore or port to Omaha, Utah, Gold and Juno Beaches and to Cherbourg, Le Havre, and Rouen. For his service, Mr. Wilczewski was awarded the Navy Good Conduct Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the WWII Victory Medal and the European-African-Middle Eastern Medal with one (1) Bronze Battle Star for Normandy.

Consul General of France to the Midwest region, Guillaume LaCroix, will officially present the Legion of Honor medal to the Honorees during the annual D-Day Ohio event in Conneaut, Ohio.

The ceremony will take place on Saturday, August 17, 2019, at 11:30 in the presence of former recipients of the French the Legion of Honor along with Ohio Representative John Patterson, Ohio State Senator Sean O’Brien, Pennsylvania House Representative Parke Wentling, and local officials.

Medal Presentation Ceremony - “Salute to Veterans”

Saturday, August 17th, 2019, at 11:30 a.m.

2019 D-Day Ohio - Conneaut Township Park, OH

Location: Main Stage - Allied Parade Ground – England