by Rashawnda Daniels-Atkinson
Alexandria, VA – World War II (WWII) veteran and resident at Alexandria’s Watergate, Robert “Bob” Fischman received the “Knight in the Order of the French Legion of Honour” medal from French Ambassador Gérard Araud on May 7, 2019 at the French Embassy in Washington, DC.
As the highest honor bestowed by France, Fischman’s act of bravery, carried out nearly 75 years ago, was thoroughly vetted over a period of nearly two years by the French before receiving the honor.
Young Soldier Needed Dad’s Signature to Enlist
“At age 17, I enlisted in the Navy and was assigned to the USS Battleship Texas for military duty. I had to have my father’s signature to enlist,” Bob explains.
“At the beginning of the U.S.’s involvement in World War II, I was assigned to battle French areas of North Africa, infiltrated by the Germans which included Casablanca, [which incidentally was] around the same time the American movie was released,” Bob recounts.
After that, Fischman, was at Normandy. He remembers D-Day.
D-Day Bravery Recounted
“The Battleship Texas was hit three times by German gunnery, which incapacitated the battleship. The USS Texas was sent to England for repair and then sent back to battle the Germans on French-owned territories,” he says.
“The battle continued at Omaha Beach where the American Rangers were shot or killed. Hundreds of them. On the ship, I was ordered by the Commander in Charge to go to the edge of the cliffs and pick up as many wounded (among the dead) that I could,” Fischman continues.
“I had the Captain’s Gig—a small boat that Navy battleships had onboard at the time—and saved 35 Rangers. One died while [I was] taking them back to the emergency hospital on the ship, but the rest survived.” Bob said.
Fischman was onboard the USS Texas for about 2 years and engaged in all its battles concerning France and its territories controlled by the Germans during World War II.
About the Medal
The French Legion of Honor was first established by Napoleon Bonaparte in May 1802. According to the French Embassy, “American veterans who risked their lives during World War II and who fought on French territory qualify to be decorated as Knights of the Legion of Honor. Veterans must have fought in one of the four main campaigns of the Liberation of France: Normandy, Provence, Ardennes or Northern France.”
Fischman joins nearly 100,000 Legion of Honor recipients to include Generals Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur.