May 24, 2004
John Moreno, 95, of Coronado, a Navy veteran of World War II, will soon add France's highest military award, the Legion of Honor, to his service medals.
One helped plan the historic D-Day invasion of France. Another landed at Utah Beach on a secret mission. A third flew overhead, looking in wonder at the colossal Allied fleet that dotted the English Channel.
For John Moreno, Charles Hostler and Robert Clark, the June 6 celebration marking the 60th anniversary of the Normandy landings against the forces of Nazi Germany in World War II will be a rewarding ceremony.
The San Diego County residents are three of the 100 Americans who will be presented France's highest military decoration, the Legion of Honor, during the commemorations.
Each is being flown to France, at the French government's expense, for three days of celebrations. In all, the French will bestow medals to veterans of 14 nations that participated in the liberation of France from enemy occupation.
It probably will be the last salute for most D-Day veterans, all in their 70s, 80s or 90s. Few will live long enough to revisit the Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno and Sword invasion beaches on the 70th anniversary in 2014.
“It's the last hurrah,” said Hostler, a Coronado resident who was U.S. ambassador to Bahrain during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. “I'm 84, I doubt I'll be around for 94.”
For John Moreno, receiving the Legion of Honor will mark the second time France has recognized his family for war service. “I'm receiving the same award my dad did,” said Moreno, 95.
His father (Aristides Moreno, Colonel, United States Army) was awarded the medal as a senior Army officer on the staff of General John “Black Jack” Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force that fought in France during World War I.
Moreno elected not to pursue an Army career and attended the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1930.
He commanded a patrol bomber squadron at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and later in Morocco after the Allied invasion of North Africa, searching for German U-boats prowling in the Atlantic Ocean. He earned a Bronze Star when his plane disabled an enemy submarine, leading to the capture of most of its crew.
For D-Day, Moreno was on the planning staff for the American landings at Utah Beach. He watched the landings from the invasion force flagship Bayfield, which was manned by a Coast Guard crew.
While he is proud to receive the award, Moreno is mystified about why he was selected.
“I haven't any idea how they got my name,” said Moreno, who lives in Coronado. “Perhaps I'm the oldest guy alive who served in Normandy.”
Only eight members of his Annapolis class are alive, he said.
Giving the question a second thought, Moreno joked, “I did win the war, but I had 2 million men helping me.”
MORENO, JOHN A
CAPT US NAVY
- DATE OF BIRTH: 10/27/1908
- DATE OF DEATH: 12/09/2005
- BURIED AT: SECTION 3 SITE 4629 LH
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard