On June 4, the French Consulate in Atlanta inducted retired Capt. Julian Fleming, alumnus of the University of North Georgia (UNG), into the prestigious National Order of the Legion of Honor for his service in aid of France during World War II.
Fleming, along with nine other American veterans, was inducted as a knight into the order, which is the highest decoration in France. Fleming, who is a Cumming resident, served in the 721st Bombardment Squadron, 450th Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force, U.S. Army Air Forces — which later became the U.S. Air Force.
Fleming with daughters Valerie Bennett (left)
and Terry Hackney (right). (Photo courtesy
of Mark Najjar).
"It is a personal pleasure for me to convey to you my sincere congratulations for this award through which France expresses its gratitude for all you did for its liberation during WWII," Consul General Denis Barbet wrote in a letter to Fleming. "Please accept our deep gratitude. We, the French, will never forget what you did to bring back freedom to our country and Europe."
To be considered for the order, one must demonstrate perfect performance of his or her trade while going beyond their expected duties, among other criteria. Of the approximately 10,000 Americans who have received this honor, some notable inductees include Alexander Graham Bell, Clint Eastwood, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Gen. George Patton, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"For Mr. Fleming to receive this award is a tribute to his incredible wartime career, which included a truly hair-raising and extremely hazardous occupation," said Dr. Richard Byers, associate professor of history at UNG. "His was one of the more high-risk positions in WWII, and the European theatre especially was very challenging and dangerous. He thoroughly deserves this award."
Fleming often served as lead navigator for his squadron while aboard "Moonbeam," a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber. He served tours of duty throughout Asia, Africa and Europe. He graduated from UNG in 1940 at the age of 17. His other medals include the Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and two Purple Hearts.
Medal worn by knights of the Legion of
Honor. (Photo courtesy of Mark Najjar).
"Our family is very proud of him, and we are glad he is being recognized for what he did," said his brother, Allen Fleming, also an alumnus. Their brother, Gordon Fleming, is an alumnus as well, and served in the Korean War.
There are five ranks within the National Order of the Legion of Honor: knight, officer, commander, grand officer and grand cross. The order's grand master has been the leader of France since the order's inception by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. The grand master appoints all other members of the order on advice of the government; President Francois Hollande has served in this role since May 2012.