EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (AP) – The French government has awarded its highest distinction, the Legion of Honor medal, to a 92-year-old alumnus of the University of Wisconsin-Stout for his World War II service, the university said this week.
Richard Hogstad of Eau Claire was an Army private in his early 20s when he served as an intelligence and reconnaissance scout for the 95th Infantry Division. His platoon was assigned to secretly monitor German movements.
“We would go down into French villages day and night and lie in secluded areas and watch the Germans often come by us,” Hogstad recalled.
He received the medal in the mail last month. He joked that while some veterans receive their medals in person, “all I got was a FedEx guy.” But he turned serious when he talked about what the honor signified.
“Our division lost about 1,260 guys, and I think it’s a tribute to their sacrifice, not mine,” he said. “I was lucky to have survived. The French are honoring the Americans who were over there, and I’m honoring those guys in my outfit and others who were killed.”
To be eligible for the Legion of Honor award, U.S. veterans must have fought in at least one of the three main campaigns to liberate France during World War II: Normandy, Provence/Southern France or Northern France.
The French Legion of Honor committee awards only a small number of medals in the U.S. every year, generally to candidates who have earned other decorations as well, such as the Purple Heart.
Hogstad was awarded a Purple Heart and Silver Star for helping capture a German bridge under intense machine-gun fire. He was shot in the hip and hospitalized in Paris for six weeks.
After completing his military service in 1945 he returned to UW-Stout, which was then called Stout Institute, using the GI Bill.