Des Plaines WWII veteran made knight of French Legion of Honor

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A World War II veteran from Des Plaines was given the French Legion of Honor Friday. (WLS)

A World War II veteran from Des Plaines who helped to liberate France from the Nazis was awarded France's highest honor Friday.

Xenophon Doudalis, 94,was made a knight of the French Legion of Honor by France's Chicago-based consul 73 years after the war.

The distinction that dates back to Napoleon, and is also held by Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacAruthur.

Doudalis said he enlisted in the army at the age of 18 because he wanted to serve his country. He served as an engineer, a bridge builder and an expert rifleman in George Patton's Third Army.

When Doudalis's unit was spread out under heavy fire in France, he took refuge in a bicycle factory - before taking a bike to round up his fellow soldiers. He also helped to liberate villages amid combat.

Doudalis was also among the first Americans to enter the Nazi concentration camp, Dachau.

"Dachau was very bad. Very bad. I was very sad about it," Doudalis said. "You have remembrances. Yes, I was very sad about it."

Toward the end of the war, Doudalis encountered a German prisoner who gave him a package and asked him to try and find his wife. As he walked in Munich, Doudalis called the wife's name.

Eventually, he found the prisoner's wife and told her that her husband was alive. The couple was later reunited.

Diana Anastazia, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, discovered Doudalis' humanity over a year ago and led the effort to have his bravery recognized.
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community-eventsWorld War IIlegion of honorfranceawardveteranDes Plaines
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