Staff at the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Society had the rare opportunity to bestow a medal granted by France to the family of a D-Day veteran.
Winfred C. Polzin, a long-time resident of Braham, Minnesota, was awarded the Legion of Honour by France.
His daughter, Mary Dorow, accepted the award on her father’s behalf from Bong Center director Hayes Scriven and curator Briana Fiandt.
Scriven said the center has had a relationship with Paul and Mary Dorow because they have been contributors to the museum’s collection over the years.
Polzin, then a sergeant in the 1st Engineer Special Brigade, served as a beachmaster — a front line commander — for the 478th Amphibious Truck Company at Utah Beach on June 6, 1944, as part of the 4th Infantry Division during D-Day’s Operation Overlord.
Beachmasters directed wave after wave of troops and equipment from the DUKW — known as duck boats — during the landing. It was a daunting task under the best conditions because each wave of the landing brought more troops and equipment that stacked up while under direct or indirect fire from small arms, mortars and artillery during the complex amphibious operation.
Polzin joined the U.S. Army on Jan. 23, 1942, and was involved in invasions of North Africa and Sicily, Italy.
He also served aboard the LST-507, which was sunk when it was struck by a German torpedo while loaded with 282 soldiers and fully-fueled trucks, Jeeps and DUKWs, which caught fire and prompted Naval commander Lt. James Swarts to issue orders to abandon ship on April 28,1944.
Polzin passed away Feb. 24, living to age 100.
The Legion of Honour is the highest order of merit for military and civilian service to France. It was established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte.