By: Robert Reed
On Saturday November 17th, the French government bestowed their highest award on three Valley US WWII Veterans. The French Legion of Honor in the Rank of Knight was bestowed up Radioman 1st Class William Kendall, Motor Machinist 2nd Class William Dunsmore and Corporal Selwyn Dante. The medals were present to these American heroes by Sébastien Thévenin, representative of the French government for Southern Nevada. The ceremony at the M Resort was not only attended by family and friends but also by those representing many of the veterans’ groups here in the Valley.
The honorees, all in their 90’s with one at 99’s years young, smiled broadly throughout the ceremony. To start the ceremony, the Nellis AFB Honor Guard was led by the bag pipe of Stuart Wishart from the Nevada Police & Fire Emerald Society this was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by Girl Scout Troop 104. A very capable Master of Ceremonies, retired Chief Boatswain’s Mate Andy Truelson kept the pace of the ceremony moving. Mark Hall-Patton, Administrator of the Clark County Museum and visiting history expert on the History Channels TV show Pawn Stars, educated us on how the Valley became a partner with the US Military during WWII.
Bill Campbell, longtime friend and Chief of Staff for the Sun City Anthem Veterans Club told the story of honoree William Kendall. Mr. Kendall first saw action as a radioman in the invasion of Sicily, Italy in 1943. On June 6, 1944 he went ashore on Utah Beach and setup radio communications back to England. After several months in France and a quick visit back to the States, Mr. Kendall was sent to New Guinea and on to the Philippines where he assisted in constructing the communications system for General Macarthur. After the war, Bill spent 38 years as a television engineer for the UN and CBS Television.
Next daughter-in-law of almost forty years gave an emotional account of the life of Motor Machinist 2nd Class William Dunsmore. Bill, like many young men of that period, left high school to join the war effort. After training, Mr. Dunsmore participated in four beach landing as a motor machinist on Higgins boats including two in Italy, one in France and Americas last assault on the island of Okinawa. During the landing on June 6, 1944 on Omaha Beach, his Higgins boat was struck by a German shell killing many on his craft and throwing Bill into the water. He sustained injuries to his lung, shoulder and ear for which he received one of his two Purple Hearts. After the war, Mr. Dunsmore served as a Los Angeles City Firefighter for 26 years. He also holds patents as an inventor for products used in the marine industry.
Insight into the life of our third honoree, Selwyn Dante was provided by his friend retire Air Force Officer, Jerry Peterson. Sel, as he is better known by, grew up in a small town in Arkansas where he tried to join the Army Air Corp but was rejected for being underweight. Mr. Dante’s war began on a beach in Normandy, France in early 1945. From there, he chased the Germans across France, Belgium and Germany, even participating in the Battle of the Bulge. Once, while in the lead Jeep, a 20mm shell from a passing German aircraft hit close to his vehicle but was a dud; the Jeep behind him was not so lucky. Another time a bullet from a strafing aircraft hit between his knees when he was sitting on a step. After the war, Mr. Dante became an Interior Designer and a member of the American Society of Interior Designers.
The honorees also received praise in the form of proclamations from Representatives from Senator Dean Heller’s office, Congresswoman Jacky Rosen’s office and representative from the cities of Henderson and Boulder City. Past Legion of Honor recipient, Joe Sharpe led everyone in an emotionally charged rendition of God Bless America. The ceremony was capped off with the playing of taps by Pete Bresciani from Trumpeters Alliance To Perform Patriotic Services, or T.A.P.P.S., which was followed by a moment of silence to remember all of those Veterans that are no longer with us. The people of America and France are grateful for the service of these veterans and all of those that are known as the Greatest Generation!