TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - On Saturday, Oct. 8 three Arizona WWII veterans will be receiving France's highest honor, the National Order of the Legion of Honor in the rank of Chevalier (Knight). This is the highest honor France bestows on its citizens and foreign nationals.
The awards will be presented to Captain Robert J. McCormack (U.S. Army), Staff Sergeant Albert J. Arreola (U.S. Army) and Sergeant John V. Reitz (U.S. Army) by Garret M. Steenblik, Honorary Consul of France for Arizona, in a private ceremony.
Capt. McCormack, was born in 1924 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. After six months of intensive navigator training he was assigned as a B-24 Navigator in the Eight Air Force 389th Bomb Group, flying 30 combat missions over Europe in 1944. One of his first missions was bombing German fortifications in France on D-Day.
The Captain's significant decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters), the Army Presidential Unit Citation, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Campaign Medal (4 Bronze Stars).
He has 7 children, 21 grandchildren, and 24 great-grandchildren (and counting).
SSgt. Arreola, was born in 1924 in San Leandro, California. Albert's air crew was formed in Pyote Field in Texas. He was assigned to the 100th Bomb Group, 351st Squadron as a Ball Turret Gunner. In 1944 they flew a new B-17 the Northern route to the United Kingdom in anticipation of combat.
SSgt. flew 34 missions over France, Germany, and Belgium. His significant decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal (4 Oak Leaf Clusters), the Army Presidential Unit Citation, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the American Campaign Medal (1 Combat Star), the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Campaign Medal (3 Bronze Stars), the WWII Victory Medal, and the Expert Carbine and Marksman Rife Badges.
Arreola currently lives in Tucson. He has 1 son, 2 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren.
Sgt. Reitz, was born in 1924 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In December 1943 he joined the 66th Infantry Division. While his battalion crossed the English Channel, his ship (the HMS Leopoldville) was torpedoed by a German submarine. John swam to a British destroyer and was taken to Cherbourg. His significant decorations include a Bronze Star, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Campaign Medal, and the Rifle Expert Marksmanship Badge.
He and his wife of Oro Valley, AZ, have 2 children and 3 grandchildren.