One WWII veteran from Georgia will be receiving the highest possible honor from the French government on Friday.
Louis Graziano is 98-years-old. He is a World War II veteran that still remembers facing off with German troops back in 1945. Back in the day, he was a U.S. Army master sergeant who was stationed in Reims, France. And he remembers when the Germans showed up to finally surrender. He explained to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution how happy he was that the war was finally coming to an end.
“They came in straight-faced. They didn’t have much to smile about,” Graziano said about the Germans. “I had the room set up where they were all going to sit. It didn’t take them no time to sign the papers.”
On Friday, the French government will be awarding the WWII veteran with the Legion of Honor. It’s an award that’s usually only given to French citizens. But it is also given to foreign nationals who have served and protected the country. And it goes without saying that Louis Graziano falls into the latter category. He was in his office and surrounded by his WWII mementos talking about how much he appreciates the recognition.
“It’s a great thing,” he said of the award. “I appreciate them giving me that.”
According to military history buff Eric Montgomery from Tennessee, Graziano is perhaps the last surviving soldier that witnessed the German surrender with his own two eyes.
Background of WWII Veteran Louis Graziano
Louis Graziano has no doubt been through a lot in his long life. As a matter of fact, the now 98-year-old was born back in New York in 1923, right in between the 1918 influenza pandemic and the Great Depression. He is the son of Sicilian immigrants Pietro and Filipa, who raised him and his four older siblings.
At the ripe age of 20 years old, Graziano was drafted in 1943. He initially landed in France as part of the Allied invasion before pushing all the way to Reims. It was there he was put in charge of plumbing, communication, electrical, and construction work. And it was there where he ultimately saw the Germans surrender.
And as heroic of a story as this is, it’s also a love story. The WWII veteran met his future wife, Bobbie, in Reims, France as well. He said that he first remembered seeing her pitch in a softball game. She was also a United States service member, albeit from Alabama.
“She was a staff sergeant, and I was a master sergeant, so I pulled my rank on her,” he joked.
After the war was over, the happy couple settled in the Augusta area. They were married for a total of 62 years before Bobbie passed away in 2007. And as for Louis Graziano, he didn’t even speak about the war until after his wife passed. His daughter, Moira Johnson, said that he finally decided to write his memoir after Bobbie passed away.
“I think he wanted people to realize what they went through for our freedom.”