TD Alumni member receives French medal for WWII service

Published: August 7, 2019

Retired SMART TD Local 1823 (St. Louis, Mo.) trainman/brakeman Eugene J. Harmack, who recently turned 99, received the French Legion of Honor medal, along with two other World War II veterans earlier this year. The other two veterans honored were Glenn A. Harrison and Alfred C. Villagran.

France has been giving the medal to veterans for their service in liberating France from German occupation during the war. Harmack, Harrison and Villagran join the ranks of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, General Douglas MacArthur and Charles Lindbergh as recipients of this medal.

“Without these three gentlemen here today, the French flag that was flying in St. Louis in the early 19th century would not be flying here today,” said Guillaume Lacroix, consul general of France for the Midwest, at the ceremony, which was attended by more than 200 people. “France was no longer a country under Nazi occupation. … You changed that, forever. And we are indebted to you.”

Harmack served as a communications operator in the 329th Regiment HQ Company, 83rd Infantry Division and fought in France and central Europe. At age 24, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes forest in Belgium. Harmack received the Bronze Star for securing a vehicle trapped behind enemy lines and re-establishing communications with the Allies. He was awarded a total of five bronze stars, a combat infantryman badge and a good conduct medal for his military service.

“I can’t believe it happened. It’s a beautiful medal, and it’s a great honor. I’m very proud,” Harmack said after the ceremony.

His family and friends, including fellow retiree and Alumni member Norbert Shacklette, also of Local 1823, joined in celebrating Harmack at the ceremony. Harmack has been a member of the UTU/SMART TD since July 1941 and a member of the Alumni Association since 2007.

The Legion of Honor, officially the National Order of the Legion of Honour or the Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur in French, was created by Napoleon Bonaparte on May 19, 1802, as a general military and civil medal awarded based on merit or bravery.

The categories of distinction are as follows: Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Grand Officier (Grand Officer) and Grand Croix (Grand Cross). Men and women, French citizens and foreigners, civilians and military personnel can be admitted to any of the classes.