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French Medal Returned in Protest

March 22, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A World War II veteran who was decorated by the French government for his D-day bravery returned his medal Friday to protest what he called France's cowardice for opposing the war in Iraq.

"I did my share, my part, to liberate the country from Hitler, and this is the way that they repay me," said George Wilson, 80, laying down the rainbow-beribboned Jubilee of Liberty medal at the gate of the French Embassy.

Wilson, who lives in Bethlehem, Pa., was wounded in the arm as troops stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. He also fought in the Battle of the Bulge, where he was captured by the Nazis and held as a prisoner of war for more than four months.

He and other D-day veterans were given the French medal in 1994 to mark the Allied invasion's 50th anniversary.

On Friday, embassy officials refused to accept Wilson's medal but invited him inside to talk to Ambassador Jean-David Levitte. Wilson said he would not go unless accompanied by reporters -- which embassy spokeswoman Agnes Vondermuhll would not allow.

"No one will take the medal from me? Well, I'm going to put it on French soil," said Wilson.

"Keep it for the French people," implored Vondermuhll.

"No, no, no. That would be hypocritical of me," Wilson replied.

"We are very sad that the disagreement we have on how to disarm Iraq could effect hurt feelings of American people -- especially of veterans," Vondermuhll said. "It's with great emotion that we see an honorable veteran give the medal back."

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