Military News

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Air Force twins receive French Legion of Honor for WWII service

by James Spellman, Jr.
Space and Missile Systems Center Public Affairs

12/4/2015 - LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif.  -- Seventy-one years after their service in the U.S. Army Air Forces, identical twin brothers and retired Air Force Reserve Majors Raymond "Glenn" Clanin and Russell "Lynn" Clanin are recipients of the French government's highest distinction for their military service as World War II veterans, The Legion of Honor medal.

During an intimate awards ceremony held Dec. 2 with family and friends at the Gordon Conference Center in the Schriever Space Complex of the Space and Missile Systems Center, the brothers were honored by Maj. Gen. Robert D. McMurry, Jr., SMC vice commander and Christophe Lemoine, Consul General of France in Los Angeles.

"On behalf of Los Angeles Air Force Base, I'm particularly proud for our ability to host this event. The Legion of Honor has been bestowed upon quite a number of World War II veterans. It's a reminder of the service that they performed and a reminder of the ties that we have between our countries that go back to the Revolutionary War with our first ally," noted McMurray.

"We have here two identical twins who married twins. At times, piloted the same aircraft, "Flak Bait," which currently is being restored by the Smithsonian, and today, over seventy years later, they are getting identical medals...which seems appropriate to me," McMurry added. "We're proud to be a part of the ceremony."

Both Clanin brothers flew the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Company's B-26 Marauder named "Flak Bait" on several missions with the 449th Bombardment Squadron, 322nd Bomb Group, known as "The Annihilators," while stationed in Beauvais, France. Glenn completed 26 missions while Lynn completed 21 missions in the twin-engine medium bomber.

"Flak Bait" completed 207 operational missions: 202 bombing runs and five decoy runs, representing the largest number of operational missions of any American aircraft during World War II. The aircraft is on display in the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.

"Attending a ceremony for the Legion of Honor is always a very special moment and always a very touching moment. It's even more special and even more touching today because we honor two brothers that have been tied together all their lives and that are with us together today," said Lemoine. "It is also a special moment because of the times after the attacks in Paris makes us think that we should really not forget the achievement of these men for democracy, which is still something we have to fight for."

"So it's a very special day for me as the consul general of France in Los Angeles, because I'm here to express the gratitude of the people of France to all Americans and allied veterans of the Second World War and especially, two exceptional people, Raymond "Glenn" Clanin and Russell "Lynn" Clanin. As young men, they left their homes to fight and liberate not only France, but the whole European continent and defend democracy and human rights," said Lemoine.

After the war, Lynn moved to California and in 1948 married his wife Elyn in a joint ceremony with his brother Glenn who married Elyn's sister, Carolyn. In their civilian lives, the brothers lived next to each other for 10 years in Manhattan Beach, Calif., working in their dry cleaning business until the Korean War. At that point, Lynn transitioned into aircraft manufacturing and in 1960 moved to Concord, Calif., where he worked in real estate before eventually retiring in 1978 as a service representative from the local water district. He remained in the Air Force Reserve, retiring as a major in 1983. Lynn and his late wife Elyn's family include two sons, two grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

After Lynn moved up north, Glenn worked in the savings and loan industry where he retired in 1985. He also remained in the Air Force Reserve, retiring as a major in 1983. Glenn currently serves as Adjutant for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2075 in Hawthorne, Calif. He and his wife Carolyn still reside in Manhattan Beach and their family includes two daughters, two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

"Their accomplishments during the war are a vibrant reminder of the deep friendship between the United States and France. A friendship bound in blood and hardships, ever since the War of Independence. From the glorious days of Yorktown to the green battlefields of Château-Thierry; From the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan, our countries have been fighting together, side by side," Lemoine remarked to the audience. "And freedom is a gift that doesn't come free. It often requires determination and sacrifices. And once again, following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, we are so very grateful for our American friends who have shown and continue to show their immense support and sympathy for the French people and I would like to thank you all for that."

Turning his attention directly to the 92-year old brothers seated in front of the audience with the flags of the United States and the French Republic as a backdrop, Lemoine addressed the two veterans personally.

"Dear gentlemen, the French would never forget that you helped restore their freedom. Your courage and your dedication is an example to us all. You're examples of 'The Greatest Generation' which faced the despair and deprivation of the Great Depression, went on to fight for liberty and freedom during the Second World War, rebuilt Europe and Japan and invented a freer and more democratic world after the war. You remind us that, no matter how great the challenge, it can be met when honest men and women stand up with determination and courage," said Lemoine.

"You are an inspiration to us all and to the younger generations. Today, we also honor the memory of your comrades who have made the ultimate sacrifice. We remember their courage and their devotion in face of adversity. We remember that they're an unbreakable link in the long chain of friendship between our two countries. They will forever remain in our hearts," the consul general exclaimed. "On behalf of the French government, as well as on behalf of the people of France, I would like to tell you very sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for your heroism and thank you for your sacrifice. And now, I would like to wish a long life to the United States, a long life to the French-American friendship and, 'Vive la France!'"

Upon the conclusion of the formal presentation, the brothers regaled the audience with a few remembrances and war stories, notably an extremely close-up aerial photo of the Eiffel Tower and how they purchased a camera without any money.

"If you all saw that picture of the Eiffel Tower on the screen, I took that picture. We were buzzing the Eiffel Tower. I was in the right pilot's seat," Lynn Clanin sheepishly admitted. "I wouldn't have got that close to the Eiffel Tower because I didn't really want to go to jail. But I took the picture!"

"I had contacted a guy that had been over there before, and he told me, 'Don't take money. Take cigarettes. That's the rate of exchange in Paris!'" Glenn Clanin explained. We loaded the top of our footlocker full of cigarettes at five cents a carton. When we went to Paris on our first pass, we took in ten packs of cigarettes with us and we found a camera shop that was in business. We went into the back room and made a trade with the guy, ten cartons of cigarettes for a nice camera and ten rolls of film that we took all those pictures with. We saved a lot of money that way."
The National Order of the Legion of Honor (French: Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur), is an order of distinction first established by Napoléon Bonaparte in May of 1802. It is the highest decoration bestowed in France and is divided into five categories: Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Grand Officier (Grand Officer) and Grand Croix (Grand Cross). The highest degree of the Order of the Legion of Honor is that of Grand Master, held by François Gérard Georges Nicolas Hollande, the current president of the Republic.

Foreign nationals who have served France or the ideals it upholds may receive a distinction from the Legion of Honor. To be awarded the medal, a service member must be nominated and had risked their life during World War II fighting in one of the four main campaigns of the Liberation of France: Normandy, Provence, Ardennes, or Northern France. If a nominee meets the required criteria, the file is sent to the Legion of Honor committee in Paris, via the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. as well as the French Foreign Affairs ministry. The Legion of Honor committee approves or rejects the candidate after review of the file.

Those elected are appointed to the rank of Knight of the Legion of Honor, or "Chevalier de Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur." The award is not presented posthumously. American recipients include Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur, Admiral Michael Mullen and even, as an institution, the United States Military Academy at West Point. Today, there are approximately 95,000 recipients of the Legion of Honor.

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