Dr. Ed McAninch, a longtime Camas physician, a 90-year-old WWII veteran this month received the French Legion of Honor medal – France’s highest honor -- 70 years after he aided an assault on a French farmhouse that was later revealed to be a high-value target. The medal is France’s way of thanking Americans who helped liberate Europe; its recipients now are Knights of the Legion of Honor.

Ed McAninch was badly wounded about 70 years ago in the leg by a burst from a German mortar shell during during his time serving with the 398th Infantry Division, otherwise known as “The Sons of Bitche” – named for the German stronghold town.

[Photos via Amanda Cowan/The Columbian]

Seventy years ago, the soldiers of McAninch’s 398th Infantry Regiment earned an even more colorful title. Part of their push through Europe included taking the fortified town of Bitche. It anchored the south end of France’s Maginot Line, and was taken over by German defenders after the French capitulated. It was a formidable challenge for the men of the 398th. Taking the strong point earned them a Presidential Unit Citation, as well as its nickname.

The Citadel at Bitche [Via]

McAninch told The Columbian newspaper that on Nov. 23, 1944, he helped provide covering fire  with a .30-caliber light machine gun during his division’s assault on a French farmhouse that was later revealed to be a high-value target. This action was led by  Lt. Edward Silk and his weapons platoon. A few weeks after the Germans surrendered the house, McAninch suffered an injury to his leg after he was hit by shrapnel, Fox News reports.

“The usual drill is, you dive feet first into the hole. For some reason, I decided I’d better go in head first. So my legs were exposed instead of my head.” Dr. Ed McAninch

Ed McAninch at age 18, after his education at what then was Carnegie Tech was interrupted by the draft. His wounded in 1944, played a role in McAninch becoming a doctor. McAninch told The Columbian newspaper that when he was wounded, he had a 35 percent service-connected disability and that when he accessed the rehabilitation benefits, he was able to stretch that through medical school. Those post-war benefits resulted in McAninch’s 40-year career as a family physician in Camas. Ed McAninch lives in Washington state.


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