ed cottell 1944

Consul General Anne-Laure Desjonquerres from the Atlanta French Consulate will award the French Legion de l’honneur Medal to WWII P-47 pilot Ed Cottrell on July 9 in Brevard. Other American recipients include General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas Mac Arthur.

Background of the French Legion de l’honneur Medal

The medal is an order of distinction first established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. It is the highest decoration bestowed in France. It recognizes outstanding services to the French Republic. ū컨 20 years ago, former president Jacques Chirac established a policy to decorate American veterans who risked their lives fighting on French territory during World War II with the insignia of Knight of the Legion of Honor. The decoration is meant to express the gratitude of the French people to the American soldiers who helped liberate France between June 6, 1944 and May 8, 1945.

How Lt. Col. Ed Cottrell Served

Edwin Cottrell, born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, served in the Army Air Corps from August 1942 through 1945, enlisted in the Air Force Reserves in 1950 and completed 28 years. A pilot in the 48th Fighter Group, 493rd Fighter Squadron, Cottrell flew 65 missions, including the Battle of the Bulge. His service in Europe began at Cambrai Airfield, just outside Paris.
In September 1944, his unit moved to St. Trond, Belgium. On a mission in Jullich, Germany, they skip-bombed the Germans and pushed them back.
On a mission to locate tiger tanks and bomb bridges on December 17, they ran into a group of Me 109 German Luftwaffe planes. A 20mm cannon hit Cottrell’s plane. Limping along with eight of its 18 cylinders of the Pratt & Whitney engine shot out, Cottrell made it back to an airfield in Belgium and made a dead stick landing. Two German Me 109 pilots had flown up beside him but, miraculously, escorted him back and let him live rather than shooting him down.
Mid-January 1945, the 9th Army started pushing the Germans back. In May, Cottrell flew his last of 65 missions out of Nuremberg. Then the war was over.
Cottrell said, “Looking back, if Hitler had been successful, he wouldn’t have stopped at anything. Thank the Lord we stopped him.”

Cottrell’s Careers After the War

After the war, Cottrell joined the Air Force Reserves and became an ambassador for the new Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, visiting high schools all over America, continuing to serve in the Reserves for 28 years.
He also worked as athletic director at a school for orphans and then as coach and professor at West Chester State University (both in Pennsylvania). Later, he taught in the university’s graduate school and became Associate Dean, retiring at age 57.

Cottrell then taught golf at Duke University and worked for the National Golf Foundation. He started his own golf school, conducting golf clinics in Holland, Japan, and throughout the United States. He said, “I’ve had a great career.”

As described, Cottrell has had three careers in his now-102 years and five months. In addition, he currently works to raise funds for the Entrepreneurial School at West Chester State University (Pennsylvania), for author Andrew Biggio’s Boston-based Wounded Vet Run, and for the Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas.
Ed and his wife Millie retired to Hendersonville, NC. Millie had worked in physical education, health, and had taught dancing. Sadly, she passed away in 2020. They have two daughters, Carol and Susan.
Ed Cottrell honors his father, Dr. Elmer Cottrell, who served in the U.S. Army in World War I. His father-in-law, Dr. Paul Weed, was wounded and received two Purple Hearts serving in the U.S. Army in World War I.

The Ceremony

The public is invited to witness this historic medal ceremony on Tuesday, July 9 at 1:30 pm at Grace Brevard Church, 55 East Jordan Street, Brevard. Hosted by the Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas, attendance is free of charge. For more information, please visit the museum at 21 East Main Street (beside the courthouse) in Brevard Tuesday-Saturday from 11am to 3pm or call 828-507-3171. To learn additional ways to honor your veteran, please visit www.theveteransmuseum.org.