This article was published in the Radcliff News Enterprise on
March 2, 2012. The original article is here -
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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
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
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
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