* Watch the Johnson W. "Dub" Brown tribute.
CUMMING — A Cumming resident was among eight World War II veterans from Georgia honored by France last week.
Johnson “Dub” Brown received the Legion of Honor medal from Denis Barbet, the consul general of France, during a ceremony Thursday at the state Capitol in Atlanta. Founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the National Order of the Legion of Honor is that country’s highest honor.
According to information from the Consulate General of France in Atlanta, the World War II veterans were presented the honor as an expression of France’s “eternal gratitude to those who liberated it from oppression from 1944-45.”
During the ceremony, Brown, a former mayor of Chamblee who has lived in Cumming since 1998, was surrounded by his family, including: Doris, his wife of 71 years; daughter Melanie Curtis; five grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.
“I appreciated all the attention,” he said. “It was a good meeting. I enjoyed it.”
Curtis worked for several years to secure the medal for her father, after first making sure he received several recognitions from his own country.
Two years ago, Rep. Tom Graves of the Ninth District, was finally able to secure eight American recognitions for Brown after Curtis appealed to various elected officials from the president to Georgia governors.
“The Navy does not make it easy to get these medals; however, they shouldn’t,” Curtis said. “It should not be easy. It should be from his actions and that’s it.”
After working more than eight years to secure the naval recognition, Curtis said she learned of the Legion Medal of Honor from France.
“The further I went, the more determined I became to get him the medals he deserved and that he earned … so I said, ‘Well, we got to go for it. We got to try for [the French recognition] too.”
Brown received the honor Thursday for his efforts at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.
At age 19, Brown was serving as a motor machinists’ mate first class when his ship landed in an assault area of France.
After disembarking its troops on Omaha, the ship suffered damage from enemy gunfire and was unable to retract from the beach. Brown was one of 10 men and three officers who remained onboard to repair it, using some unusual methods.
“We had so much damage to the ship that we had a big hole in the bow of the ship and I got the mattress and stuffed it in and that kept us afloat,” he said.
While Brown is humble about his efforts during the war, his wife and daughter were quick to praise him.
“It’s amazing that he’s here and the ones that were on the ship with him,” Doris Brown said. “I know it’s a part of history now, but it’s so close to so many people who lived through it.”
Curtis said her father and his comrades who served in World War II truly are “the greatest generation.”
“They’re gutsy, they’re tough, they do what they have to do,” she said. “They don’t talk about it, they don’t want any hoopla, they don’t want anything extra.
“They just did what they did for their country and their fellow military guys.”
She also thanked leaders of France for recognizing American servicemen’s roles in protecting their way of life.
“That’s an impressive thing, not only the peace that we enjoy every day [in the U.S.], but the peace that they gave to another country and the freedom. That’s just impressive.”