Ocean County Press Release

IT MAY HAVE taken nearly 70 years, but retired Army Sergeant John Gutbrod of Surf City will be honored by the French Republic for his role in the liberation of Western Europe.

Responding to a yearlong effort by the Ocean County Veterans Service Bureau, the French Consul General in New York City Bertand Lortholary informed Gutbrod on June 10 that he will receive the Legion of Honor.

"I am very pleased to inform you that you have been awarded the insignia of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the President of the French Republic Mr. Francois Hollande," Lortholary said in a letter to Gutbrod.

This is the third medal Gutbrod has received for his World War II heroism in the past year.

Last July, during a formal military ceremony before the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Gutbrod was presented with both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
"I'd gotten the paperwork that I was awarded these citations, but there was some kind of Army mistake and I never actually received the medals," Gutbrod said at the time.

After learning about Gutbrod's problem last year, Freeholder Gerry P. Little and Veterans Service Bureau Director John P. Dorrity worked to rectify the mistake and were on hand when he received the awards for valor.

At the time, Little said the county was also working with the French Government to further honor Gutbrod.

The Legion of Honor will be presented on November 8 during a special ceremony in New York City.

"I know John Gutbrod would not use this term to describe himself, but he is under every definition of the word a true American hero," Little said."

Assigned to the 507th Regiment of the storied 82nd Airborne Division, Gutbrod was among the first U.S. Soldiers to land in occupied France on the early morning hours of D-Day, June 6, 1944. These vanguard paratroopers fought a series of skirmishes overnight to protect the landing zones for the thousands of U.S. Soldiers that came ashore on the Longest Day.

Months later, during the Battle of the Bulge, Gutbrod encountered a German Panzer approaching his battalion headquarters. He charged the tank and tossed a grenade down an open hatch, exploding the tank's armament and destroying the vehicle. The force of the explosion threw Gutbrod over a hedgerow and into a nearby field.

"We owe our World War II veterans a debt that can never be repaid," said Freeholder Director John P. Kelly. "These men, and women, went to war to fight tyranny on a scale never before witnessed in the history of mankind. Many, many did not come home. Sgt. Gutbrod represents all of our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who will forever be renowned as the Greatest Generation."

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