New Windsor resident honored for WWII service

New Windsor resident Charles Ecker doesn't speak much about his experiences in World War II.

But on Jan. 27, his service attracted no small amount of attention as he was honored by the French government for his actions during the war.

Ecker, 94, was named a "Chevalier," or Knight, of the Legion of Honour by the President of France at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C.

The honor is the highest military award in France.

Ecker was one of 11 veterans recognized by the French ambassador during the Monday morning ceremony.

"It was very moving," said Joe Conaway, Ecker's grandson. "I think it's probably more than they [veterans] were expecting."

Conaway nominated his grandfather for the recognition after learning of the honor in a veterans magazine article in which he learned the French government was looking to recognize living World War II veterans who fought to liberate France.

Conaway said Monday's ceremony was a very emotional one for his grandfather, so much so that Ecker did not want to comment for this story.

"He was very moved by the generosity of it," Conaway said. "But on the way home, he said it brought back a lot of memories and that was very difficult for him to deal with."

Ecker was an infantryman who had landed on the beaches of Normandy June 6, 1944, during the historic assault best known as D-Day.

The action was one of the largest amphibious assaults in history. Code named Operation Overlord, it proved to be a turning point in the war. It was the second of two phases of the operation that ultimately drove the Germans from France during World War II.

Ecker, a native of Carroll County, had previously been awarded Bronze Stars for Valor for his actions on D-Day and in the Battle of Southern France.

He also fought in Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany before he was honorably discharged in May 1945, earning enough combat points to return home.

According to the D-Day Museum website, the Allies landed around 156,000 troops in Normandy, supported by 11,590 aircraft.

There is no "official" casualty figure for D-Day, according to the website, due to the chaos and numbers of forces involved in the event.

The Allied forces suffered and estimated 10,000 casualties for D-Day, though "recent painstaking research by the US National D-Day Memorial Foundation has achieved a more accurate — and much higher — figure for the Allied personnel who were killed on D-Day. They have recorded the names of individual Allied personnel killed and so far they have verified 2,499 American D-Day fatalities and 1,914 from the other Allied nations, a total of 4,413 dead (much higher than the traditional figure of 2,500 dead)."


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