This article was published in the Radcliff News Enterprise on March 2, 2012. The original article is here - http://www.thenewsenterprise.com/content/friends-family-honor-former-radcliff-veteran-and-pow We worry that the web site will eventually go stale, so here is the content.
Friends, family honor former Radcliff veteran and POW By Sarah Bennett Friday, March 2, 2012 at 5:05 am (Updated: March 2, 5:58 am) As three flags fly at half staff outside Vine Grove Baptist Church today, the Rev. Larry Vance will recall a memorable conversation with Morgan French, a former Radcliff resident, veteran and prisoner of war who died Feb. 25 in Plano, Texas. During his 40 months as an American POW in Japan during World War II, the Japanese guards lined French and his fellow prisoners up in the recreation area, according to Vance. The guards took out pistols and began to randomly shoot prisoners. French watched a Japanese officer in front of him pull out an American flag, throw it on the ground and stomp on it, Vance recalled. Thinking he was going to die anyway, French broke rank and rushed to pick up the flag, clutching it to his chest. One of the guards pulled a gun on him, but a Japanese officer pushed the man's gun away and allowed French to return to his place in line, according to Vance, who has been pastor at Vine Grove Baptist Church for 17 years. When French told this story to Vance, he told the pastor he didn't know why the Japanese officer showed a moment of kindness. As he recalled, Vance told the former POW, "That was pure honor and respect for you." French, who lived in Radcliff for 48 years, died after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 92. In addition to serving in World War II, he was a Korean War veteran. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1962 with 23 years of military service. He earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart among other commendations. His sons, Morgan T. French and Stewart French, both of Texas, recall their father being very level-headed. "Things that would bother normal people wouldn't bother him because he had seen so much," Morgan T. French said. Despite what he endured as a POW, friends and family recall French as a "character" and "amazing personality," who never spoke much about his time in combat unless asked. However, once he began telling his stories, you never wanted him to stop, said Vance, a fellow veteran who served as a U.S. Marine in the Vietnam War and in the Dominican Republic. Asked if the veterans frequently exchanged stories, he said, "There was no swapping from my side because I wanted to listen to him." The former POW believed he saw the first atomic bomb drop in Hiroshima during his imprisonment, his sons said. He also unloaded gold into the gold vault at Fort Knox while serving in the National Guard. Audio of French and his wife, Maxine, who served in the Army Nurse Corps, recounting stories can be found on Stewart and Anne French's website, stewartanne.com. After he retired from the military, French eventually entered civil service and worked as an instructor at the armor school at Fort Knox. He retired in 1989. Morgan and Maxine French, married for 55 years, left Radcliff in 2007 when French's Alzheimer's began to worsen. His sons believe he was exhibiting symptoms 10 years prior to that. "It's incredible he lived as long as he did being a prisoner of war," Stewart French said. A funeral for French is at 1 p.m. today at Vine Grove Baptist Church. He will be awarded full military honors, Vance said, with 31 National Guardsmen attending. "There's a word people throw around a lot today: hero," said Clint Meshew, a fellow veteran and friend who will deliver French's eulogy today. "He was a real one." Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or sbennett@thenewsenterprise.com. ----- end