Eastside Veterans awarded the French Legion of Honor Medal

Daniel F. McAllaster and Richard A. Nelms awarded for their service in France during WWII

  • Sunday, May 19, 2019 1:30am
  • Life

On May 10, the Consul General of France in San Francisco, Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens, recognized U.S. veterans Daniel F. McAllaster of Issaquah (P-38 Mechanic), Richard A. Nelms (B-17 Pilot) and Stanley Zemont (Demolition Squad Leader) for their services in France during World War II.

The ceremony took place at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

Daniel F. McAllaster

Issaquah resident Daniel F. McAllaster enlisted into the Army Air Corps in October 1942. After basic training, he was sent for general mechanics training school and further training for maintaining hydraulics, propellers and electrical systems on airplanes. In late October 1943, he was sent to Will Rogers Field in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to join the 30th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron in the Ninth Air Force. The airplanes were the P-38’s and were equipped with cameras for photo reconnaissance instead of guns. His job was to keep all of the airplanes properly serviced and maintained daily after photo reconnaissance missions.

On June 13, 1944, the 30th Photo squadron became part of the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Group, which was attached to the First Army under the command of General Bradley. McAllaster was one of three mechanics with the squadron and was in the advance group to go over to the continent from England on June 29, 1944. They set up operations 2 miles behind the front lines in northern France and continually moved as the army marched through Belgium forward to Germany. McAllaster was one of the 25,000 who crossed the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen before it collapsed on March 17, 1945.

On March 20, 1945, the unit moved on to Vogelsong, Germany. By April 8, 1945, the unit was in Eschwege (a German airbase) 150 miles southwest of Berlin. At the end of the war, the unit was assigned occupational duty in Nuremburg for about a week until they received orders to accompany the First Army to China.

McAllaster received an honorable discharge at Leavenworth, Kansas, on Oct. 28, 1945. He achieved the rank of sergeant. He along with other members of his squadron received the Presidential Unit Citation with an added oak leaf cluster for exceptional and outstanding service for “the most extensive low altitude photographic assignment ever undertaken over enemy territory.” The unit was flying before D-day and provided “an essential part of preparations for the Continental assault” mapping not only Normandy but the entire north coast of France, Belgium, the entire Siegfried Line and the Rhine Valley. The photo missions resulted in many Allied lives saved during the landing operations on June 6.

After leaving the army, McAllaster pursued a career in flour milling. He became the superintendent of several flour mills in Oklahoma, Colorado, Nebraska, Washington and Oregon before retiring in 1987. McAllaster currently lives in Issaquah with his daughter. He has three grandchildren (Shannon Millican, Todd Butler and Stacy Butler) and five great-grandchildren.

Richard A. Nelms

Mercer Island resident, Captain Richard A. Nelms — better known as Dick among those who know him — was born February 1923 in Cleveland, Ohio, and ultimately raised in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Nelms became an avid golfer at 14, competed in track and field, and was senior class president before graduating in 1941. Then war time changed any plans he had.

Nelms enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1942, and was accepted to Aviation Cadet and pilot training for active duty in March 1943. After earning his wings in December 1943 he was assigned to the B-17 and the 447th Bomb Group 8th Air Force, based in Rattlesdon, Suffolk County, England. Over the course of his service, he flew 35 missions into Germany, France and other Nazi occupied territories. He also helped plan and wrote the specifications for food and supply drops to the Maquis Freedom Fighters and others. Overall, Nelms never lost sight of the fact that he was one of thousands of men dedicated to stopping Hitler’s war machine.

Nelms received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for participation at the Battle of Normandy and the liberation of the region of France and of Europe; Distinguished Flying Cross medal for extraordinary achievement and superior airmanship while serving as pilot on high altitude heavy bombardment missions over Germany and Nazi occupied continental Europe; Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters; U.S. Presidential Unit Citation for accuracy in bombing; European theater ribbon with four battle campaign stars; and a WWII Victory Medal.

After completing his tour, Nelms volunteered to remain with the 447th as squadron duty officer. In December 1944 he returned to the U.S. Captain Nelms was honorably discharged in December 1945.

After WWII’s end, he returned to civilian life to become an established advertising and corporate graphic designer in Seattle. Nelms married Laurel, an ex-Marine, and together they made their home on Mercer Island, with son Garet. Laurel died in 2014.

Stanley L. Zemont

Bellingham resident Stanley L. Zemont was born on Nov. 19, 1924 and joined the Army in April 1943 and served until January 1946. He then served in the Air Force from January 1948 until December 1953. After the war, he went to college in Chicago and worked for Hughes Aircraft for 32 years. Zemont and his present wife have been married for 35 years.

Issaquah resident Daniel F. McAllaster receives his French Legion of Honor Medal from the Consul General of France in San Francisco, Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens at the Museum of Flight on May 10. Courtesy photo of the Consular Agency of France in Seattle
                                The U.S. Veterans were awarded the French Legion of Honor Medal at the Museum of Seattle on May 10. Courtesy photo of the Consular Agency of France in Seattle

Issaquah resident Daniel F. McAllaster receives his French Legion of Honor Medal from the Consul General of France in San Francisco, Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens at the Museum of Flight on May 10. Courtesy photo of the Consular Agency of France in Seattle The U.S. Veterans were awarded the French Legion of Honor Medal at the Museum of Seattle on May 10. Courtesy photo of the Consular Agency of France in Seattle

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