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100-year-old WWII veteran Lt. Col. William Pollard dies; recently awarded French Legion of Honor

A 100-year-old World War II veteran from Kentucky, who was recently awarded the French Legion of Honor, has died.

Retired U. S. Army Lt. Col. William Pollard of Henry County received France’s highest military decoration from French Consul General Guillaume Lacroix during a Nov. 19 ceremony at the State Capitol Rotunda.

Pollard, then a 25-year-old first lieutenant, was one of the first Americans to land on Omaha Beach at Normandy in June of 1944 in what become known as the D-Day invasion of Europe.  However, Consul General Lacroix said while “pinning” Pollard, “I know you call it an invasion but, in my country, my people, we call it ‘liberation.’

William Pollard

“What you did was truly amazing,” Lacroix told Pollard.  “You are a true American and French hero, a hero to two nations.  From the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of the French President and the French people, thank you for your service.” 

He added: “It’s not a coincidence that Mr. Pollard is a member of America’s Greatest Generation.  We owe so much to America’s Greatest Generation, the men and women who served their country.  Without the sacrifices of America’s Greatest Generation, Europe would still be divided and under tyranny.”

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who hosted the November ceremony, announced his death on Monday, saying, “Such an honor to host LTC William Pollard in the Capitol as he was recognized with the French Legion of Honor recently. He passed away this weekend & I share my deepest condolences with his family. LTC Pollard was a true American hero.”

According to the Consul General’s office, Pollard enlisted in the Army in May 1941, and after completing Officer Candidate School, was assigned to the 481st Anti-Aircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion, commanding Company “A.”

After landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day, Pollard’s first mission was to establish the Mulberry Harbor, consisting of artificial harbors to assembled to help the unloading of supply ships onto the beach during the Allied invasion.  He and his unit provided defense from Luftwaffe and German ground forces.

During the war, Pollard participated in four major campaigns: Normandy, Northern France the Rhineland and Central Europe.

For his bravery in combat, he was awarded the European-African-Middle Eastern Service Medal with two battle stars, the American Campaign Service Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.

Pollard made the Army his career, retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

No word on funeral arrangements.

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