BREVARD, N.C. (WSPA) – George Sarros on Wednesday became the latest recipient of the Légion d’Honneur, an award given by the French Government “based on exemplary services rendered to France,” for his role in defending the country in World War II.
The Legion of Honor is the highest merit bestowed by the French Government.
Sarros was drafted at age 18, and after requesting to serve in the U.S. Navy instead of the Army, was assigned the role of motor machinist on LST 515. LST boats were developed in World War II to support amphibious operations by landing tanks, ambulances, troops and supplies on enemy shores.
During “Exercise Tiger,” a training operation in April 1944, Sarros’ fleet was attacked by German forces.
“I saw one ship got torpedoed. In less than five minutes, another ship got torpedoed,” he recounted. “In another couple of minutes, another ship got torpedoed.”
The commander of the fleet ordered remaining ships to return to shore in order to shield themselves from more torpedoes; however, the captain of LST 515 defied orders, opting instead to rescue as many of the now-stranded servicemen as possible.
Sarros said the water was 45 degrees and he still remembers men screaming for help. The crew aboard LST 515 saved over 100 servicemen after dodging a torpedo aimed at their ship. Roughly 1,000 more perished in the attack.
On June 6, 1944, Sarros and the crew aboard LST 515 transported soldiers to the beaches of Normandy during D-Day.
“When we hit the beach, we had a German fighter come down and try to strafe us, but a P-47 (American fighter plane) was right on his tail and just blew him away,” Sarros said.
Sarros retired from the Navy in 1946 and went on to become a U.S. Postal worker.