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Columbus WWII vet ‘Ironman of Metz’ earns French Legion of Honor

COLUMBUS, Ind. (WISH) – A World War II veteran in Columbus is earning the French Legion of Honor, France’s highest order of military or civil merits.

Charles Whittington is earning the award for his time serving in France with the U.S. Army. He’ll travel to Kansas City next week, where a French Liaison Officer will give him the award.

Whittington-a recipient of the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge-is no stranger to military honors.

“I was wounded three times,” he said. “The last time was serious. I spent nine months in the hospital.”

He was moved to a U.S. hospital in 1945 – the year he earned an honorable discharge. Before that, he helped capture the French city Metz.

“Metz had never been captured even since Napoleon,” Whittington said. “So we were the first ones to capture it.”

An after action report from the Metz battle said Whittington spotted a booby trap in a barricade and pulled a lieutenant away just as the explosion started. The lieutenant suffered a concussion.

The story of the booby-trapped barricade is just one detail Dianne and Don Barriger sent to the French government. They’re family friends of the Whittingtons who, with the help of Charles’ family, made it their mission to see him earn the Legion of Honor.

“I think soldiers who go into battle need to have someone brag for them if they don’t want to brag for themselves,” Dianna said.

Whittington’s friends and family know him as “Red” – a nickname he earned as a boy due to his hair color.

Years later, he earned a different nickname. A nickname he shared with his brothers in arms: “The Ironmen of Metz.”

“The German general gave us that name,” Whittington said.

Whittington will be joined in Kansas City by his family and friends, including some of his old Army friends.