Almost 70 years after Sid Jacobson JCC member Harold Cohen provided medical assistance to residents of the newly-liberated city of Le Mans, France, the French Government awarded him a medal for his selfless service. Cohen was one of 27 veterans receiving the famed Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur.
Cohen, who recently celebrated his ninetieth birthday, received the medal last month at a ceremony at the Lycee Francais de New York, a French-American school on East 75th St. In presenting the award, Bertrand Lortholary, the General Consul of France in New York, declared that the award is France’s highest decoration.
“We French will never forget what we owe you,” Lortholary said to the men, seated on a stage in the Lycee Francais auditorium. In other introductory remarks, Nicolas L’Hotellier, Deputy Head of the school, said the presentation of the medals “celebrates the values of courage, solidarity, selflessness and the sense of duty to the service of peace.”
Cohen recalled that he arrived in France 10 days after D-Day and worked in a medical unit. As troops drove east toward Paris, Cohen spent time tending to the medical needs of the farmers, merchants and families of the small city of Le Mans and surrounding areas.
“I gave out medications, changed bandages, dressed wounds,” he said. “The people were very grateful at the time. I didn’t think that what I did would be remembered so many years later.”
The veterans were introduced by ninth-graders at the school. In introducing Cohen, one student noted that while driving an ambulance to the hospital outside Le Mans, Cohen’s vehicle was bombed and he suffered injuries. The student also noted that Cohen received two bronze stars. The bronze star is awarded by the U.S. military for “meritorious service in a combat zone.”
Cohen, an active member of the Sid Jacobson JCC in East Hills, has lived in Port Washington with his wife, Elsie, since 1965. Cohen grew up in Brooklyn and graduated from Brooklyn College and the University of Chicago, where he earned a master’s degree in industrial psychology. He worked as a designer of children’s toys and later served as an executive in the garment district. The Cohens have two adult sons and two granddaughters.