Art Nicholas, of the Oak Forrest subdivision in Englewood, Fla., has been selected as a recipient of France’s highest distinction. He will be named a “Knight of the Legion of Honor” for the part he played in the Normandy Invasion of France during World War II.
French Consul General Philippe Létrilliart, who is based in Miami, wrote to Nicholas: “Your decision to fight for freedom during World War II was an admirable act, demonstrating your courage and selflessness. Without you, and those who fought alongside you, France and Europe may have never been liberated from the barbarity of Nazi occupation. The solidarity that you showed to our country and people will never be forgotten and considered as an example to follow for the next generations. It is our pleasure to award you with France’s highest distinction. Rest assured that we will be eternally grateful.
“We will be holding ceremonies in the upcoming months throughout the state of Florida and will be requesting your participation at that time.”
That’s the part that worries Nicholas, a Navy veteran. The French government doesn’t say when or where the ceremony will take place. All he knows at this point is he must be there in person to receive the honor.
“I’m 93 years old and I don’t know whether I’ll be around long enough to accept the award from the French government. I may be with the angels by then,” he said.
Nathalie Cluzet-Bertot, press attaché for the Consulate General of France, added little. She did confirm Nicholas would receive the French Legion of Honor decoration.
Asked when and where this might happen, Cluzet-Bertot could not say precisely. She did say the award possibly could be bestowed in Tampa or Naples, but the exact date had not yet been chosen.
A brochure distributed at the last award ceremony, held in Pinellas Park, Fla., on March 3, 2015, notes: “On the 60th anniversary of the Normandy landing, France decided to grant the Legion of Honor to all the U.S. veterans who fought on French soil, many of which gave their lives in the name of freedom and were therefore unable to receive this award.”
At one point during WWII, Nicholas was a boatswain’s mate first class serving aboard a landing ship tank, or LST, during the Invasion of Normandy that began June 6, 1944, along the French coast. The first day of this historic battle, known as D-Day, 175,000 Allied soldiers stormed the coast onto German-occupied French soil. Thousands were killed.
In addition to taking part in Normandy, Nicholas also was involved in the invasion of North Africa in November 1942. After that he became a member of the “Scouts and Raiders” that established the Amphibious Warfare School in Fort Pierce, Fla.. He trained underwater demolition team members during the war. They were the forerunners of today’s Navy SEALs, used for special operations missions.
Click here to read Don’s first interview with Art.
Name: Art Nicholas
Currently: Englewood, Fla.
Rank: Boatswain’s mate 1st Class
Commendations: Purple Heart, World War II Victory Medal, European Theater of Operations Medal and the Good Conduct Medal
Battles/Campaigns: Utah Beach, Normandy, North Africa
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, January 25, 2016 and is republished with permission.
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