WWII Armenian-American Veteran Charles S. Sahagian Awarded France’s Highest Military Honor
By Ludér Tavit Sahagian
On Sept. 21, in the presence of MA Congresswoman Niki Tsongas and Mass. Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Francisco Ureña, the Consul General of France in Boston Valéry Freland decorated four WWII American veterans with the French Legion of Honor medal at a ceremony held at his residence. Of the four honorees, notably two were of Armenian descent: Avak Avakian, of Concord, Mass., and this writer’s paternal grandfather, Charles Sahag Sahagian, of Needham Heights, Mass.
According to the Consulate General’s official announcement, these veterans “were selected to be awarded the Legion of Honor for their bravery and heroism, and for their outstanding contribution to the liberation of France in World War II.” Established in 1802 by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, the Legion of Honor “is exclusively awarded in cases of exemplary military and civilian services. It is the oldest and highest honor in France. It is awarded by decree of the President of the French Republic, [in this instance by] Mr. Emmanuel Macron. Since the 60th anniversary of D-Day, France recognizes every year many American veterans of WWII for their courageous service.”
A native of Dorchester, Mass., Pvt. Charles S. Sahagian “served as a rifleman and heavy weapons specialist in the 347th Regiment, 87th Division of the 3rd U.S. Army in the European Theater during 1944-45. While clearing German units in the Moselle region in France, General Patton ordered Sahagian’s battalion to immediately recapture the town of Saint-Hubert, Belgium. The resulting 30-hour march from France to Belgium was recognized as one of the fastest and furthest movements of infantry in U.S. army records.
Honorably discharged in Feb. 1946, [now Pfc.] Sahagian received the Purple Heart, three Bronze Star Medals, the WWII Victory Medal, and the American Campaign Medal. [Following his military service, he] led an impressive career, serving as [the] U.S. Representative to NATO specializing in military materials research. He [also] served as a U.S. Representative to NASA [recommending materials experiments in space] and [for three decades] as a Supervisory Physicist for the U.S. Department of Defense.”
Consul Freland presents award citation. To his right: Mass. Congresswoman Tsongas, Mass. Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Ureña, and Honoree Sahagian. (Photo courtesy of Ludér Tavit Sahagian)
Charles S. Sahagian was born 91 years ago to Zarouhi Khoshabjian Sahagian and Sahag Bedros Sahagian. His parents hailed respectively from the cities of Digranagert and Kharpert, in Western Armenia, and were survivors of the Armenian Genocide.
He attended the Mather School in Dorchester, Mass., the oldest public elementary school in the U.S., and Boston Latin School, the oldest public high school in the U.S. Interestingly, a few years following his military service, he attended the Graduate Program in Applied Physics at Harvard University, the oldest university in the U.S.
While still a teenager, he volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army. A few months later, he was assigned to the famous 3rd Army commanded by Gen. George S. Patton.
The fierce compulsion of Gen. Patton at the time to capture and neutralize the German forts protecting Metz, France, to then cross the Moselle and drive full-force to Berlin to precede the Soviets, was suddenly thwarted by a multi-division Nazi attack in the Ardennes that was personally mandated by Hitler. This massive onslaught is today known as the “Battle of the Bulge.”
It was during this period that Sahagian was introduced to and had to experience war at its worst. His division (the 87th) and other units still eliminating enemy resistance in the Metz sector were directed to advance immediately northward to help exhausted American troops in Bastogne, Belgium, and to blunt the deadly German offensive. The resulting formidable forced march occurred under total radio silence. Over 130 miles under the worst possible winter conditions were traversed in less than two days.
Sahagian’s division moved clandestinely out of France, through Luxembourg, into Belgium. This silent operation has taken its place as one of the major tactical operations of WWII.
Consul Freland bids honoree Sahagian and great-grandson Sevak farewell outside French Residence (Photo courtesy of Ludér Tavit Sahagian)
In a private 1963 meeting in Boston with his foster Needham High School student Daniel Jumah of Kenya, he had the opportunity to discuss several human rights issues with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., including the unaddressed Armenian Genocide.
Edited by onjig, 14 October 2017 - 04:54 PM.