WWII Army Veteran Receives France’s Highest Honor

WWII Army Veteran Receives France’s Highest Honor

John Gojmerac
Photo by: U.S. Army/Sgt. William Griffen

John Gojmerac, a World War II veteran who served in the 3rd Infantry Division, recently was awarded the insignia of Knight of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest decoration.

Jeremie Robert, consul general of France in New York, presented the award to Gojmerac Oct. 20 in a ceremony in Tonawanda, New York. 

During the war, Gojmerac, a Slovenian immigrant who was drafted into the U.S. Army, served with the 3rd Infantry Division’s 7th Infantry Regiment. He participated in the unit’s many campaigns, starting with the initial landing in North Africa to its campaigns in Italy, France and Germany.

Gojmerac, now 99 years old, served in many capacities, including as an infantryman, a scout, a photographer and a telephone line repairer. 

The Legion of Honor recognizes people “who have carried out actions of great value, forged by their own merits,” reflect French values and contribute to the public good, according to the Legion of Honor website.

Gojmerac survived numerous close calls during his service. On one occasion, he was knocked to the ground by a German grenade. On another, he was wounded and used his rifle as a cane to safely get back to the medical tents.

In November 1944, while serving in France, Gojmerac earned the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award for valor, for repairing a telephone line between two platoons several times during a single engagement, according to the Army. On the last repair, Gojmerac captured a German soldier who was trying to cut the line. His actions helped his fellow soldiers coordinate their attack against the enemy, according to the Army.

“How I survived … it makes me wonder sometimes,” Gojmerac said.

Over the years, Gojmerac did not share stories of his service with his children. He began to open up when he had grandchildren, said one of his daughters, Tina Fabozzi.

Fabozzi’s son, Eric, was captivated by his grandfather’s medals when he was a child. “My son would come, and [Gojmerac] would have his medals in a cardboard box in a drawer in the bedroom, and my son would find them,” Fabozzi said. “Then, he would talk about them a little more with us.”

Fabozzi said that her son, now an adult living in France, helped her submit Gojmerac for the Legion of Honor.

Gojmerac is the best of the best, Fabozzi said. “He has a lot of integrity and a lot of character, he did what he needed to, and he always tried his best,” she said. “That’s my dad.”

Even as he accepted the honor from the French, Gojmerac talked about the fallen soldiers he served alongside. “I’m not accepting it for myself, but for the men that didn’t make it,” he said.