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Congressman Higgins Joins French Honorary Consul Pascal Soarès in Presentation of the U.S. and French Medals WWII Veteran Howard Tobin Earned Nearly 74 Years Ago

Jan 23, 2017
Press Release
Cheektowaga Resident Honored With Highest Decoration Bestowed by France, The French Legion of Honor, for Contributions to the Liberation of France During WWII Army Corporal Participated in the Invasion of Normandy, Battle of the Bulge & Witnessed the Liberation of Concentration Camps

Nearly 74 years after entering the United States Army, Corporal Howard Tobin received the medals he earned while serving during World War II.  Mr. Tobin accepted both French and U.S. military service medals in a special ceremony with Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) and French Honorary Consul Pascal Soarès held at Cheektowaga Town Hall. 

“There is no greater honor than to recognize the service of our veterans and today Corporal Tobin’s actions are recognized by not one but two grateful nations,” said Congressman Higgins.  “His story and those of who fought alongside him decades ago will be forever sewn into the fabric of our history and regarded as some of the most incredible acts of bravery ever witnessed.”

"It is my pleasure to welcome Corporal Howard Tobin to Cheektowaga Town Hall today as he receives the recognition he so rightfully deserves," said Cheektowaga Supervisor Diane Benczkowski.  "Corporal Tobin exemplifies what it means to be a member of the greatest generation: commitment to country, family and community.  On behalf of all Cheektowaga residents, I congratulate Corporal Howard Tobin for receiving this recognition and offer our sincerest appreciation for his service to our country."

Born in 1923, Howard was the son of a German immigrant and one of nine children living in the Tobin home located off Genesee Street near the Buffalo-Cheektowaga border.  He was a student at Burgard High School before joining the United States Army on February 2, 1943. 

Tobin was deployed from Fort Niagara, entering active service on February 9, 1943.  He was assigned to the 551st Anti-Aircraft Artillery which was part of the XX Corps (Twentieth Corps).  The XX Corps became part of Lieutenant General George S. Patton's Third Army. The Division participated in five battles during WWII including three of the four campaigns contributing to the liberation of France: the battles of Normandy, Ardennes and Northern France.  

By the end of August 1944 the XX Corps liberated several French cities.  Tobin recalls the French passing out bottles of champagne to the American troops in Reims, France.  His unit passed through the area quickly because it was too dangerous to stay in one place.  Later that year Tobin participated in the Battle of the Bulge, known as the last major German offensive campaign of WWII, ending January 25, 1945. 

Tobin was a witness to the liberation of concentration camps. Camp Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp to open in Germany, was liberated by the U.S. Army on April 29, 1945.  Days later, on May 8, 1945, the Germans surrendered yielding victory for the Allied Forces.  After the camp was abandoned by the Germans, Tobin remembers how relieved those who remained in the camp were to see the Americans.

On December 8, 1945 Corporal Tobin was honorably discharged and returned to Western New York.  In 1953 he married the love of his life, Jeanne, and the couple moved to Cheektowaga, NY where they raised their two children, Jill and Brian.  As a civilian Tobin was employed at Iroquois Brewery, later worked as a carpenter helping to build homes and businesses in the Buffalo region, and eventually retired from Hadley Exhibits.  Today he remains an active parishioner at Our Lady Help of Christians on Union Road in Cheektowaga. 

Mr. Tobin recently reached out to Congressman Brian Higgins’ office to inquire about eligibility for the Legion of Honor Medal.   Higgins’ office coordinated with the French government on Mr. Tobin’s behalf and secured a set of U.S. medals through the Pentagon. 

At a ceremony held in Cheektowaga Town Hall, joined by Cheektowaga Supervisor Diane Benczkowski, U.S. Army Captain and Commander of the Buffalo Recruiting Company Zachary McDonald, and members of the Cheektowaga Town Council, Congressman Brian Higgins and French Honorary Consul Pascal Soarès awarded Corporal Tobin with the medals he earned for his service during World War II.  Also in attendance was Rev. Richard Jesionowski from Our Lady Help of Christians, who provided an opening prayer, as well as the family and friends of Corporal Tobin.  

Captain McDonald said, "The Army relies on the dedication and professionalism of its Soldiers to provide for the defense of the nation.  To this day, we are taught that the sacrifices of  ‘the greatest generation’ during WWII was among our finest hours as a military.  To be afforded the opportunity to honor one of these great men is a rare and valued opportunity."

Congressman Higgins presented Mr. Howard Tobin with the: Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII, Good Conduct Medal, World War II Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and silver service star.  The silver service star represents the five campaigns that he was involved in which include: Ardennes, Central Europe, Normandy, Northern France, and Rhineland.

Honorary French Consul Pascal Soarès presented Corporal Tobin with the French Legion of Honor Medal. First established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, it is the highest decoration bestowed in France.   The award is separated into 5 categories: Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Grand Officier (Grand Officer) and Grand Croix (Grand Cross).   Tobin, for his service during the Invasion of Normandy, was awarded the Chevalier Legion of Honor, an award created to recognize virtue, honor and heroism and intended to express France’s gratitude towards those men who risked their lives, and in many cases gave their lives, defending liberty.