Tom Hanks to Receive France's Highest Honor for His Work Highlighting World War II
Tom Hanks is set to be honored in Paris with the Legion d’Honneur, one of France’s highest awards.
Along with Hanks, NBC newsman and Greatest Generation author Tom Brokaw and National World War II Museum Director Gordon “Nick” Mueller will receive the five-grade order’s entry level award on Friday.
The trio will become chevaliers of the Legion of Honor in recognition for their efforts highlighting the role of World War II combat soldiers as well as their long-standing support of New Orleans’ National World War II Museum.
The Legion d’Honneur, founded by Napoleon in 1802 as an order of merit, is awarded to military and civilian personnel for distinguished service to France, but is not exclusively privileged to the French. Last August, French President Francois Hollande personally pinned medals to the three Americans: Spencer Stone, Alex Skarlados and Anthony Sadler, and one British citizen who prevented the terrorist attack onboard the Paris-bound train Thalys.
Legion status is also frequently accorded to international artistic and cultural figures from diverse disciplines.
Past American recipients include Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford. Novelist Danielle Steel, Jerry Lewis and Salma Hayek are also among those entitled to wear a small rosette pin indicating their rank.
Friday’s formal ceremony at the Legion’s headquarters (next to the Musee d’Orsay) will be followed by a reception at the U.S. Embassy.
Dr. Gordon Mueller, co-founder of the New Orleans museum who will also receive rank alongside with Hanks, 59, and Brokaw, 76, said sharing the honor was “totally unexpected and very cool.”
Speaking to New Orleans’ Times-Picayune last week, Mueller described the experience as “humbling.”
Two-time Oscar winner Hanks starred in Saving Private Ryan and has co-produced two epic series about World War II: Band of Brothers and The Pacific. Brokaw is a longtime advocate for WWII veterans and a museum fundraiser.
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The pair “are champions for our museum – and for telling the war stories that resonate on both sides of the Atlantic,” Mueller told the Times-Picayune
All three were nominated by a resident of Normandy’s Sainte-Mére Eglise working with the museum’s exchange programs. All Legion d’Honneur nominations once reviewed, must be approved by the French President, who serves as the organization’s chief during term.
This Friday’s ceremony comes on the eve of the 72nd anniversary of the D-Day landings.