August 12, 2022

MITCHELL, S.D. (Aug. 26, 2019) — The Republic of France paid special tribute to three South Dakota members of the “greatest generation.”

Bob Everson, Mayor of Mitchell with Legion of Honor recipient Jimmy Traupel. City of Mitchell Government — at Mitchell Veterans park.

French Consul General to the Midwest Guillaume LaCroix presented the French Legion of Honor medal to veteran Jimmy Traupel of Mitchell….

Traupel accepted the Legion of Honor on behalf of his comrades in the 379th Bomb Group.

He says he was trained to do a job and performed it to the best of his ability.

Traupel flew 34 missions over Europe as a waist-gunner and “toggler” aboard B-17 bombers. He received numerous medals including the Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart. 

A Spearfish veteran also received France’s highest honor for his service during World War II.

Kenneth Higashi, 97, is one of three South Dakotans receiving the prestigious French Legion of Honor award.

Higashi received his award Friday during a ceremony held at Black Hills State University.

Higashi was a member of the C “Charlie” Company, 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team – a special fighting force made up of Japanese-Americans.

During his service, he was infantry assault squad leader, participating in the North Apennines, the Pro Valley, The Rhineland and southern France campaigns.

The Consul General of France to the Midwest region was on hand to present the award to Higashi for his participation in the liberation of France.

Also receiving the medal was Orvil Lerew, 97, of Faulkton.

The French Legion of Honor is the highest distinction that France can bestow upon those who have achieved remarkable deeds for France.

(Gary Matthews, KBHB, and JP Kelly, KORN, contributed this report.)

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