Saturday, February 6, 2010

Foreign Decorations

Belgian Fourragère


Image Source: U.S. Institute of Heraldry

The first foreign decoration listed on Bill’s discharge is the Belgium Fourragère, more usually known as the Belgian Fourragère. The award is comprised of three cords braided together with a polished brass cap at one end and a loop at the other to attach the Fourragère to the right shoulder. The cords are made of red and green silk for officers and cotton for enlisted men. It was bestowed on the 82nd Airborne for its actions against the German counter attack in the Ardennes Forest, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge from December 17 through December 31 1944. Below is an excerpt from GO #123 Headquarters 82nd Airborne Division. It cites the reasons for the award and gives a factual yet moving account of the sacrifices the men made.

1. “This elite Division which has gone with the great élan through the campaigns of Tunisia, Sicily, Italy, Holland and France, has distinguished itself particularly in the Battle of the Ardennes from December 17 to December 31, 1944. Called upon as a reinforcement by the Allied High Command in the evening of the 17 December, at a time when the division was in the vicinity of Reims, the Division was able to take up combat positions in the region of Werbomont only twenty-four hours later and this under very severe climatic conditions. Progressing towards Ambleve and the Salm, the Division opened and maintained a corridor for the elements of four American Divisions which were surrounded in the vicinity of St. Vith, thus giving new courage to the engaged units. The Division had prevented the enemy from piercing the north flank of the pocket created by the offensive of Von Rundstedt and thusly succeeded in saving the city of Liege and its surroundings from a second occupation by the Germans.

2. After having excelled in defensive warfare at the banks of the Salm and the Ambleve and after having repelled successfully the repeated attacks of the best German shocktroops, the 82nd Airborne Division with the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment attached, in spite of extreme cold and excessively deep snow, went on the offensive themselves and advanced to the German border, capturing 2500 German prisoners, including five battalion commanders. This fighting was extremely valorous as the organic composition of the Division handicapped the unit considerably, not having at their disposal, as any other Infantry Division would have, heavy weapons to support their attack. During twenty-three days, under most painful and adverse conditions, the veterans of the 82nd Airborne Division did not cease to give a wonderful example of courage and heroism, exemplifying their fighting spirit by several remarkably brilliant actions. By its valor, the Division wrote another page in heroic annals of Allied Airborne troops and rendered an important service to Belgium and to the Allied cause by establishing the necessary basis for the new pursuit of the enemy towards the Rhine River.”

Article 2: The Minister of National Defense is herewith ordered to execute the decree.

For the Regent:

The Minister of National Defense

signed: L. Mundeleer.”


Dutch Citation Lanyard


Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

Bill’s discharge record states he was awarded the Dutch Citation Lanyard which is sometimes called the Dutch or Netherlands Orange Lanyard. The Orange Lanyard of the Royal Netherlands Army is the decoration’s formal title. It’s an orange colored cord worn over the right shoulder and was granted by the government of Holland. Only the 82nd Airborne personnel who physically fought in Operation Market Garden around Nijmegen are entitled to it. Other personnel from the Division were not granted the award and so were not entitled to wear the lanyard. The General Orders # 125 dated October 12, 1945 of Headquarters 82nd Airborne Division are very specific about this. In part they have been reproduced below:

“Ministerial Decree of the Netherlands Minister of War, dated 8 October 1945, granting the personnel of the 82nd Airborne Division, who participated in operations during the period of 17 September to 4 October 1944, authority to wear the ORANGE LANYARD of the Royal Netherlands Army is quoted:


The Minister of War considering, that the outstanding performance of duty of the 82nd Airborne Division, United States Army, during the airborne operations and the ensuing fighting actions in the central part of the NETHERLANDS in the period from September 17 to October 4, 1944, have induced HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN to decorate its Divisional Colours with the "MILITAIRE WILLEMS-ORDE" degree of Knight of the fourth class; CONSIDERING also, that it is desirable for each member of the Division, who took part in the afore-said operations, to possess a lasting memento of this glorious struggle;

DECREES: That each member of the personnel of the 82D AIRBORNE DIVISION, UNITED STATES ARMY, who took part in the operations in the area of NIJMEGEN in the period from September 17 to October 4, 1944, is allowed to wear the ORANGE LANYARD, as laid down in article 123g of the Clothing Regulations/1944, of the Royal Netherlands Army.

THE HAGUE, OCTOBER 8,1945 THEMI ISTEROFWAR (Minister van Oorlog)”

As can be seen from these orders, the citation for the Dutch Orange Lanyard was part of a larger unit decoration bestowed upon the 82nd Airborne; namely the “Militaire Willems Orde”, (Military Order of William) degree of Knight of the Fourth Class.”  The Division was the first foreign military unit to receive it in WWII.

The only other foreign unit to be granted the Military Order of William in WWII was the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade for its effort in Operation Market Garden, but that didn’t happen until 2006.

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