Joseph Picard served as a cannoneer of a 240 mm howitzer M1 and was awarded the Legion of Honor for his service in France during World War II. (Photos courtesy of the U.S. Army, Lynne Picard-Landa, and Ralph Peters. Best Defense Foundation composite image.)
Cpl. Joseph “Joe” Picard was awarded the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur on Oct. 26. In English, it’s called the Legion of Honor and is the highest honor France can bestow upon its citizens and allies.
Mr. Mustafa Soykurt, Consul General of France in Boston, Massachusetts, presented the award during a ceremony held at Picard’s independent living building. Picard was awarded the French Legion of Honor for his role in liberating France during World War II via 360 lb. high explosive shells.
“I am honored, of course. I have the utmost praise for the organization because it’s a very prestigious organization, a very old organization,” Picard said. “They are very selective with whom they award it to, and I’m absolutely honored to receive it.”
Picard was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on June 25, 1925. His journey started when he was drafted into the U.S. Army on August 10, 1943. Picard was trained as a cannoneer of a 240 mm howitzer M1 at the Field Artillery Training Center, located on Fort Liberty (previously named Ft. Bragg).
With a range as far out as 25,225 yards — a little over 14 miles — the 240 mm howitzer M1 was a formidable weapon. The massive artillery piece earned the nickname “Black Dragon” and was the largest field artillery piece implemented during WWII. Picard became the Battery Clerk for Battery C, 552nd Field Artillery Battalion, and deployed to England in April 1944.
Two months later, Picard landed on Utah Beach after D-Day and started firing his gun on June 30, 1944. The 240 mm howitzer M1 was essential to the Allied Forces strategy, helping take out difficult targets like heavy concrete fortifications found along the Nazi regime’s Siegfried Line.
Picard and his fellow cannoneers supported the 1st Army through Normandy and Northern France up until September 1944. They later moved into the vicinity of Aachen, Germany, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge in support of the 18th Airborne Corps.
Picard’s best friend, Raymond A. Bolduc, was killed by shrapnel from an oncoming artillery shell on Nov. 5, 1944. Picard has never forgotten his best friend and spoke fondly of him during the 79th Anniversary of D-Day Battlefield Return Program to Normandy.
After the Battle of the Bulge, Picard way his way further into Germany, where he supported American troops fighting from the Roer River to the Rhine River.
At the end of the war, they had occupation duty, and Joe was discharged on January 1, 1946. Though WWII ended almost 80 years ago, Picard remembers the carnage of war and the brothers he gained during his time in the Army. For Picard, he accepted the Legion of Honor on behalf of his whole outfit.
“It’s not just for me. I am the only one left from my outfit. As far as I’m concerned, this medal applies to every one of them as well,” Picard said.
The award is managed by the National Order of the Legion of Honour, formerly called the Royal Order of the Legion of Honour. The award was first established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, it has been retained by the various French governments ever since.