In a ceremony today in his Capitol office, Gov. Jay Nixon presented three Missouri veterans of World War II with the Legion of Honor medal, the highest award bestowed by the French government for service to that country. Lloyd Cain, Frank Crooks and Francis "Bud" Jones, all of Jefferson City, received the award for distinguishing themselves during the liberation of France.
"The soldiers and airmen who fought in France and in the skies above saw many of their comrades fall, and they knew each day could be their last," Gov. Nixon said. "But they pushed on, liberating millions of people across Western Europe from the yoke of Nazi tyranny. The memories of World War II are now more than 65 years distant. But we need to continue to pay honor to those who wore our nation's uniform in that war, and in every war. These three gentlemen should know that all Missouri shares their pride in this great honor."
Lloyd Cain was a U.S. Army sergeant who fought in battles in France and Germany in 1944 and 1945. During one battle, he went out four times between the lines to serve as a spotter for American mortars; for his bravery in exposing himself to enemy fire, he was awarded the Silver Star, the third highest military award. Cain earned a battlefield commission to second lieutenant. After the war, Cain continued to serve in the Army, and saw action in Korea. During the Vietnam War, he served as an advisor to the South Vietnamese army. He retired in 1976 as a Colonel, serving as the senior Army advisor for the Missouri National Guard in Jefferson City.
Frank Crooks joined the Army Air Corps shortly after graduating from high school in St. Joseph. During the war, he flew 60 bombing missions over Italy, France and Germany in a B-26 Marauder bomber as the turret gunner/engineer. On his 42nd mission, the plane was hit by flak and forced to make an emergency landing on an airstrip in France. The airstrip had been held by the Germans, and the crew expected to be captured. Fortunately, the French had retaken the strip five days earlier.
Sgt. Crooks rejoined the Air Force after the war, and rose through the ranks to become a commissioned officer and served with the Missouri Air Guard at Rosecrans Air National Guard Base. By the time he retired in 1984, Crooks was a Brigadier General. Gov. Kit Bond promoted him to Major General, in honor of his 40 years of exemplary service.
Francis "Bud" Jones graduated from Vienna High School and was in his first year at the University of Missouri when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He joined the Army Air Corps, and was trained as a P-40 fighter pilot. Flying P-40s and then P-47s, Lieutenant Jones and his fellow pilots of the 324th Fighter Group flew airstrikes against railroads, enemy troops, and gun emplacements. Several times, his plane was shot up badly, and he was decorated with two Distinguished Flying Crosses and several other medals. After flying 117 missions, he was returned to the States to train new pilots. After the war, Jones served in the Air Force Reserve before retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1981. Outside his military career, he joined the Missouri State Highway Patrol, rising through the ranks before retiring as a Major in 1981.