BUTTE -- An Eagle Butte woman who was an Army nurse during World
War II will be one of 100 former military personnel to receive France's
most prestigious civilian honor at the 60th anniversary celebration
of the Allied invasion of Normandy.
June 5, the Republic of France will bestow the prestigious Chevalier
de la Legion d'Honneur - Knight of the Legion of Honor - on Marcella
LeBeau, 84, in a ceremony in Paris.
and 99 other World War II veterans will travel to France as guests
of that country to receive medals for their military service and
their efforts to liberate France during World War II.
enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, LeBeau, then
24 years old, was stationed in Minster, England, 60 years ago. She
was in the Army Nurse Corps, working at the 76th General Hospital.
Allied invasion of Europe began early June 6, 1944, and LeBeau and
other medical personnel received the first battle casualties from
the beaches of Normandy at 2:30 a.m. June 7.
would never want to take away from what our soldiers did,"
LeBeau said in a telephone interview Friday, downplaying her role
in the Normandy invasion. "It was one of my greatest privileges
and honor to have cared for those soldiers."
also worked at hospitals in Belgium and France in 1944 and 1945
as the Allies gained ground on the German defenders. She received
three service stars for her work during battles and campaigns in
Northern France, the Ardennes and the Rhineland. She also treated
wounded from the Battle of the Bulge in early 1945.
said the closest she came to working near the front lines was in
Belgium. Under day and night attack from German bombs, LeBeau said
she could feel the concussions as she worked in the hospital in
Liege, Belgium. She said bombs fell close by on the motor pool,
and she was close to attacks that killed 21 military people and
took a chance putting us in Liege," she said. "We were
a few miles from the battlefield."
LeBeau will receive the highest civilian award of the French Republic,
which is awarded for outstanding service to France, regardless of
the nationality or gender of the recipient. Napoleon Bonaparte founded
the Legion of Honor in February 1802.
an invitation LeBeau received May 13, French ambassador Jean David
LeVitte invited her to an embassy reception in her honor on June
3 in Washington, D.C.
that night, she and her oldest daughter, Diane Booth, will fly to
Paris for the first of two ceremonies honoring LeBeau and fellow
World War II veterans.
June 6, LeBeau will travel by train to attend another ceremony in
said her father served in the Spanish-American War and that his
service became a tradition she followed.
guess it kind of runs in our family," she said.
LeBeau retired, she had been a nurse 31 years.
think it's one of the most rewarding careers," she said. "It's
gratifying to be able to help other people."