On January 23rd , three St. Louis area Veterans were awarded France's highest distinction for their participation in the liberation of France during the Second World War. (Consulate General of France in Chicago)

ST. LOUIS -- As a French diplomat pinned his country's most distinguished medal to Alfred C. Villagran's chest, the World War II veteran thought of the five men in his B-17 bomber crew who were killed in combat.

"I think they would be very proud of me," said Villagran, who was 19 when he served in the Army Air Forces as a B-17 radio operator and gunner. "But I like to think that I accepted this not only for myself but for all the guys that fought for France and Western Europe. There are a lot of deserving guys who didn't make it back."

At 95, Villagran, of Chesterfield, was the youngest of three men and World War II veterans France awarded the Legion of Honor on Wednesday at Soldiers Memorial.

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