Nov 12, 2009

Valley Resident Marcel Albert is French Medal of Honor Recipient

Today I met one of the greatest Flying Aces of World War II, Marcel Albert. Interestingly enough this veteran, decorated by at least three countries, lives here in the Rio Grande Valley. Today he received the French Medal of Honor delivered to him personally by the French Ambassador.

I greeted Ambassador Pierre Vimont as he entered the airplane hanger along with his country's dignitaries. Like many Europeans they were fluent in multiple languages and had a good grasp of our Hispanic names. Attending the event were local dignitaries such as Congressman Ruben Hinojosa, State Senator Eddie Lucio, State Representative Armando Martinez, Weslaco Mayor Buddy de la Rosa, Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell and the military leadership of our local veterans. We were also joined by high ranking officers of the French and American military.

Marcel Albert is 92 years old but you can tell the fire still burns within him. Having been born in Paris, France, when the medal was placed on his lapel the French Ambassador spoke to him in French. Because I stood near Mr. Albert I couldn't help but hear him initially respond in English. A habit I'm sure he picked up in the United States. When I personally congratulated him I noted that he thanked me with a, merci beaucoup. (thank you very much) I responded with a polite merci.

Here is a brief background of Mr. Albert:

Marcel Albert was born in Paris on the 25th November 1917. On leaving school he took as a metal worker with the Renault Company before joining the Armée de l'Air on the 7th December 1938. Qualifying as a fighter pilot Albert was posted to the 1/3 Groupe de Chasse-Escadrille in early 1940, although he did not see any combat until the German Invasion in May. On the 14th May Marcel achieved his first combat victory when, flying a Dewoitine D.520, he shot down a Dornier Do.17 north of Suippes. Later that day he shot down a Messerschmitt Bf.109 although this was not confirmed. On the 20th he accounted for a Heinkel He.111 near Ham, but as France fell to the Germans, he and a few comrades escaped by plane from Oran to Gibraltar, and from there to England to join 340 Squadron "Ile de France" of the Free French Air Force. with which he flew 47 missions.

In 1942 he volunteered to join the groupe de Chasse No.3 "Normandie" to serve in Russia flying YAK fighters. Over the next few months his score of victories gradually increased, including a Junkers Ju.88 and two Focke-Wulf Fw.190s on the 15th October. By the end of October, now as the Commanding Officer of No.4 Escadrille his score had reached 23 plus two probable.

Returning to France in 1945, Marcel was decorated by both the French and Russian Governments (including the Crois de Guerre, aves 15 palmes et trois etoiles de Vermeil, and the order of Lenin) . After the war he served as French Air attaché to Prague, and later emigrated to the United States where he became a successful businessman. Today he lives in Harlingen, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley.

Our Valley veterans were extremely proud to be in the presence of such a brave and highly decorated soldier. It was good to see them interacting with Mr. Albert. A touching moment arose when an American World War II flyer who served on the American forces introduced himself to his French comrade. It was a great day.

The Rio Grande Guardian and The Monitor newspaper were there.


Irina said...

Best wishes and congratulations from Russia. We will always remember the great deeds of French pilots of Normandy-Neman squadron during WWII and will be eternally greatful to them. God bless you, dear Mr. Albert!

vincent said...

A great memory. 55 years ago almost to the day, I was sworn in as a US citizen in Washington,DC.
Because I was in USAF uniform, I was selected to appear in a photograph with Judge Bolitha Laws and Mr. Albert published in the Washington Post.A fan of WWII aviators, I was awed to be in his presence and looking at that photo now,of a very young Mr. Albert I am still awed by that moment.
I'm delighted to see him in good health and to have shared that moment with him
Vincent Neil
Melbourne, Fl.

J.B said...

Repose en paix ALBERT.