LA PORTE, Texas -- On board the Battleship Texas on Friday, June 6, 2014, in La Porte, 36 World War II veterans received the highest distinction offered by the government on France in a D-Day 70th anniversary “thank you” for helping liberate Europe from the grip of Nazi Germany.
But as we left the ceremony where the veterans were awarded the Legion of Honor Medal, a 94-year-old veteran, dressed in his original Army Air Corps uniform, stopped us to insist there was one more story to tell.
“Now listen to this,” Maj. John H. Tschirhart, USAF, Ret. said in a rich French accent. “"I'm the best representing the alliance between France and the United States."
Born to an American father and a French mother in San Antonio, Tschirhart grew up primarily in France. When the German occupation began in the 1940’s, he was a 20-year-old madly in love with a young woman named Malou who was a member of the French resistance. But when the Nazis began sweeping France for Jews and Americans, Tschirhart fled to the United States to join the war effort and help fight to liberate his adopted country.
"I joined the Army Air Corps motivated by a dream of being reunited with my girlfriend Malou,” he said.
But the reunion never happened. It took him three years to fight his way back to France. And by then the Nazis had found her. His beloved Malou had been killed.
"Now, you got your story,” he said.
For much of his adult life Tschirhart has been trying to get Hollywood interested in telling that story: two souls and first-loves torn apart by war. He's written the screenplay. He carries DVD proposals and synopses for his “grand motion picture.” A movie he says that would "hold you spellbound through joys and tears."
So when Tschirhart accepted the Legion of Honor medal last week on board the Battleship Texas, he did it in memory of the friends he lost in the war.
"I am here lucky to be standing to accept this in their name," he said. "That's what it means to me."
And it would mean even more to him if one day the rest of the world could learn, and see on the big screen, the story and the sacrifice of his beloved Malou.