American WWII soldier to be inducted into France's Legion of Honor

Col. Leach in Vietnam, 1969
Col. Leach in Vietnam, 1969 Beaufort Gazette

Down the street from the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, the Musee National de la Legion d'honneur was a mandatory stop for Marion and Jimmie Leach of Beaufort whenever the couple visited the city.

The couple would stroll the halls of the museum, housed in an 18th century palace on the west bank of the Seine River, and marvel at the historical figures inducted by the French government into the National Order of the Legion of Honor. The order was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 to recognize military and civilian service to the French Republic and is the highest honor in France.

President Dwight Eisenhower, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Queen Elizabeth II are among the foreign-born members of the order, and James Leach has joined their ranks. Leach died in December at age 87 after suffering a heart attack while driving on Lady’s Island. Leach was awarded the Legion of Honor before his death, and the Consul General of France in Atlanta, Pascal le Deunff, will induct Leach and three other American World War II veterans from across the Southeast into the Legion of Honor during a ceremony Sept. 1 in Warner Robins, Ga.

“I think he would be humbled by this honor,” Marion Leach, his widow, said.

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