Troy native receives WWII medal, 66 years late

Published 7:44 am Thursday, November 3, 2011

After 66 years and four days, Gerald Furlow finally received the medal that he earned during World War II.

Furlow, a Pike County native, received the Legion of Honor medal at a ceremony in Houston, Texas, where he now makes his home.

The National Order of the Legion of Honor is the highest decoration in France and was presented to Furlow in lieu of the Croix de guerre, which was one of the major military distinctions in France.

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“The Croix de guerre was supposed to be awarded to every soldier who put a foot in France during World War II,” Furlow said. “But there were just too many of us. France didn’t have enough of the crosses to go around. That medal meant a lot to me. I really wanted it and I’m so proud of it. I wear it every day and everywhere I go.”

Furlow accepted the Legion of Honor medal for every American soldier who was never so honored.

“There are a lot of Troy men who should have gotten this medal,” he said. “This one is for all of them.”

Furlow was a member of the Alabama National Guard’s 117th Field Artillery, 31st Dixie Division that was made up primarily of men from the Troy area.

“There are only two of us left now, James L. Boutwell who lives in Panama City and me,” Furlow said. “We left on November 25, 1940 and served until 1945. We started out with 155mm guns in North Africa but, when we got to France, we were given split-trail howitzers and later we became an armored battalion. We were in France six months and 15 days and were in conflicts all the way through. Yes, I wanted this medal.”

The National Order of the Legion of Honor was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 to reward civilians and soldiers and only merit counted.

The order remains the most prestigious way in which the French Republic can recognize the merits of those who achieved great things in the service of France.

In the presentation of the medal to Furlow, the French Consul, said that Furlow will wear the title of “chevalier de la Legion d’ Honneur.”

“The Consul said that ‘knight’ is a strange title to be worn in the 21st century but that three words summarize the whole concept – virtue, bravery and commitment to a noble cause,” Furlow said.

Furlow served in France with the 933rd artillery battalion, which made its way up the Rhone River valley in support of the French 1st Army. The battalion’s first combat position was in the province of Haute-Saoen then on to Vosges, Belfort, Colmar and the Rhine River.

During the campaign in France with the French Army, Furlow’s unit received three letters of commendation from various French units. All commendations emphasized the military qualities and the efficiency of the battalion, as well as the comradeship the battalion shared with the French soldiers of the 1st Army. For its actions in support of the French army, the 933rd artillery battalion was awarded the Croix de guerre.

The battalion’s campaign in Europe didn’t stop at the French border.

“Our battalion moved to Germany in March 1945, and that’s where we stayed until the surrender of the German Army in May 1945,” Furlow said.

After completing his military service, Furlow worked for American Airlines as a security officer, then as an accountant and with a company that was building a pipeline from Mercedes, Texas to New York City before going to work with Transcontinental Gas for 33years.

Furlow and his wife, Joanne, have one son, David Allen, and three grandchildren.