BATAVIA, Ill. — A World War II veteran from Illinois who flew 35 missions aboard a B-17 bomber has been given the highest honor France bestows on non-citizens.

Ninety-six-year-old Howard Keskitalo was a first lieutenant with the U.S. Army’s 388th Bomb Group and 563rd Bomb Squadron when he flew those missions, including raids during the D-Day invasion of France.

Before pinning the Legion of Honor to Keskitalo’s lapel, Deputy Consul General Frederic Chole called him “a great man.” He said Keskitalo’s bravery not only “restored hope to millions of people,” it “changed the course of history.”

Keskitalo said before Wednesday’s ceremony in Batavia that too much was being made of his service.

He joins a select group of Americans to receive the honor, including Dwight Eisenhower, who commanded Allied forces in Europe.

Information from: The Beacon-News,

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