France’s Highest Distinction to be Awarded to Utah Resident

Pete CodellaNews

World War II veteran Dean C. Larson will be awarded with the French Legion of Honor on Thursday, July 31 at 3 p.m. in the Gold Room of the Utah Capitol building for the merit and bravery he exhibited while fighting on French territory during World War II.

“We can never repay the men and women who risked their lives to protect our liberties and fight for justice, but we can give them our thanks,” said Governor Gary R. Herbert. “As a veteran myself, it is an honor to see selfless people like Dean C. Larson being recognized with France’s highest distinction for his years of service and sacrifice.”

Dean Larson entered the Army Air Corp on April 23, 1943, at the height of World War II. Dean was assigned to be a ball turret operator/gunner for a B1-17 bomber crew. The ball turret, found in the belly of the aircraft, was very small in order to reduce drag. It was typically operated by the shortest man on the crew.

After training in Pyote, Texas, Dean’s crew was stationed in Deenthorpe Air Base in England. Dean flew 33 combat missions, including two bombing mission on June 6, 1944 to the coast of Normandy on D-Day.

On his fifteenth mission to Bordeaux, France, Dean was wounded in his ball turret from a flak burst. When his damaged plane arrived back in England and was taxied to the hardstand to wait for an ambulance, the crew got out and started counting holes in the aircraft from the flak burst. They were up to 500 when the ambulance arrived and they stopped counting. They were only a quarter of the way around the plane.

Because of his distinguished military record and extraordinary contribution to France, Dean Larson has been selected to receive the French Legion of Honor and will be appointed to the rank of Knight of the Legion. The French Legion of Honor was established during the French Revolution by Napoleon Bonaparte as a replacement for the French orders of chivalry. It can be earned by both civilians and soldiers based on merit. A small number of Legion of Honour medals are awarded each year in the United States.

“The Dean C. Larson family wishes to thank all those who have been involved in the French Legion of Honor ceremony and have shared this occasion to honor one of those from the “Greatest Generation,” said Dean’s son Roger Larson. “Dad accepts this great honor from France on behalf of all those of the 401st Bomb Group that were based in Deenthorpe, England during World War II.”

For his military service, Dean has received the Combat Crew Wings, the Purple Heart, five Air Medals, Campaign Medal with two bronze stars for Normandy and Rhineland air offense, Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation and World War II Victory Medal.

Dean was separated from the Army Air Corp on October 2, 1945. On April 18, 1946, he married Dorothy L. Campbell. The couple has five children, sixteen grandchildren and forty great grandchildren.