More than 72 years after his heroic action in the European theater of war, the country of France has awarded J. Herman Sitrick the Legion d’Honneur, which is the highest honor bestowed by the French for military and civil actions.
Sitrick was recognized for turning over 21 German prisoners during the Battle of the Bulge, the last major German offensive during WWII.
The specific incident meriting the recognition occurred in January 1945, when a young Sitrick found himself on post during the infamous Battle of the Bulge.
Whilst standing watch in the middle of a snowstorm, Sitrick came across an unarmed German soldier. After approaching him, the German soldier pleaded with him, saying: “Don’t shoot! I have three children!”
Taking pity on the soldier, Sitrick took him into custody and sought refuge from the storm in an abandoned farmhouse. As other German soldiers wandered in, disoriented from the storm, Sitrick captured them, as well.
The next morning, when tanks from the U.S. 3rd Armored Division came by the house, Sitrick turned over 21 German prisoners before being taken to a field hospital for what he said was “frozen feet.”
After leaving the hospital, his fellow soldiers said that reporters and photographers had been seeking him out, but a humble Sitrick declined the interviews, content with a job well done.
Sitrick’s son, Ron Sitrick, spoke to reporters before the Legion d’Honneur award ceremony and described his father as humble and reserved when it came to his war experiences, “like most true heroes.”
“What this award means to us more than anything is that his bravery, selflessness, and service is not taken for granted at this stage of his life,” Ron Sitrick said. “The outpouring of love and admiration for our father by so many is astounding and touching for all of us as a family.”