Posted on July 3rd, 2016 by:

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The French government has awarded 12 World War II veterans the French Legion of Honor Medal in a ceremony in Little Rock.

Beatrice Moore of Batesville, honorary consul of France for Arkansas, presented the medals at the rotunda of the State Capitol. U.S. Representatives French Hill, R-Ark., and Rick Crawford, R-Ark., assisted Moore in the ceremony.

“This is the largest group we have recognized in Arkansas,” said Paris born Moore.


Beatrice Moore, (right) after presenting World War II veterans with the French Legion of Honor Medal. The veterans are, Kenneth Smith (seated) and standing, from left, James “Tinker” Siler, Wilmer “Will” Plate and Alvin McCarn (Photo: Carol Rolf)

“The government of France is deeply grateful to all of you … for helping us regain our freedom, our pride and our honor,” she said. “These veterans … were just 18 to 25 years old when they landed on Omaha Beach. They were just kids…and most of them were farmers.

Moore went on to say “Today France gives the Legion of Honor to all American veterans who were in one of the major campaigns to liberate France. Today, we must recognize all World War II veterans…France is a free country because of what they did. I thank you for your bravery.” She also said the United States and France must continue to stand together to defend freedom.

“God bless America…viva la France…long live the friendship between our two great countries.”

Following Moore’s remarks, Representatives Hill and Crawford introduced each of the veterans to be presented with the medal.

Four of the veterans present for the ceremony were Alvin McCarn, James “Tinker” Siler, Wilmer Plate and Kenneth Smith.

Alvin McCarn, soon to be 92, landed on D-Day as a member of Company C, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division.

“I got drafted. I was in the first wave that landed on Omaha Beach. I was 20.”

“People do not realize that the first wave was not the worst,” he said. “No one was on that beach when we landed. It was a complete surprise. I don’t believe I saw but one or two Germans then. One had a machine gun and fired a burst as we crashed the beach, and one sniper killed a boy while he was cutting a wire,” McCarn said.

“There was a ravine there, where they came down to the beach. We climbed up that hill without another shot being fired”.

“All the German generals went home,” McCarn said. “They thought the channel was too rough to cross. “If we had landed a few hours later, I might not be here today. I’m lucky to be here. I was wounded 26 days after we landed and they sent me to England, where I was in the hospital for about six months. Then they sent me home, and I stayed in the hospital for about a year. I didn’t get out until February 1946.”

McCarn married Mary Davis on May 19, 1949 and were married 62 years before she died in 2012. They had two sons, Bobby, who died in 2002, and Jim, and three grandchildren and seven grandchildren.

McCarn was a farmer most of his life and said “I didn’t make a lot of money, but I did what I liked to do. I was raised up on a farm and always liked it. I never did like the city.”

About his decorations, McCarn said, “I don’t get into that much honors and recognitions. It’s the ones who didn’t come home that are the true heroes.”

Another veteran honored was Wilmer Plate who was born in Iowa in 1919 and raised in Texas. He has lived in Arkansas since 2006. Plate joined the Army Air Corps at age 23 in June 1942, and became a B-24 Liberator pilot. He flew 30 missions over France, Belgium and Germany with the 8th Air Force’s 489th Bomb Group.

Wilmer Plate retired from the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Command Center in Los Angeles in December 1971. He is an Air Force Reserve retired Lieutenant Colonel. His civilian career included working for the Oklahoma State Employment Service for 30 years.

When asked about receiving the French Legion of Honor Medal, Plate said, “I feel real emotional about it. It’s quite an honor. I never expected it. I might shed a tear or two before this is all over.”

James “Tinker” Siler born in 1925 and was drafted before he finished high school.

At 19 he was part of the 5th Medical Battalion, 5th Infantry Division, as a combat medic in Company C. “I was over there a little over a year,” he said. “During the Battle of the Bulge, I got frostbite in my feet and legs and had real serious pneumonia. I was in the hospital about 10 days. Then I went right back out onto the battlefield.”

“I am honored to be receiving the French Legion of Honor Medal. I never expected it. This is truly a distinction,” said Siler.

Also born in 1925, Kenneth Smith was 19 when his anti-aircraft unit landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. He was a member of Battery C, 413th Artillery Battalion.

“This is a wonderful honor,” Smith said of the French Legion of Honor Medal.

Smith participated in the campaigns of Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge), Alsace/Lorraine and Central Europe and received the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with five bronze service stars and one bronze arrowhead, the Good Conduct Medal and a Unit Commendation by Brig. Gen. E.W. Timberlake.

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