French government acknowledges UT professor’s military service

Nidia Cavazos

Norman Martin, philosophy and computer science professor emeritus, received the French government’s highest decoration last week for his service during World War II.

Martin received the decoration — Chevalier de l’Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, or the Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honor — during a ceremony in connection to a “Salute to Veterans” celebration in San Antonio on Friday.

The award is equivalent to the Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the U.S. The French award is divided into five degrees: knight, officer, commander, grand officer and grand croix. Martin received the knight ranking, for which a minimum of 20 years of public service is required along with distinguished merits during the active duty period. 

Martin said it was a great honor for him to be considered a knight. 

“I think it is neat to get to be a knight (‘chevalier’),” Martin said in an email. “I never thought of myself as aristocracy.” 

His service during World War II was commended — as he was assigned to Field Artillery, the first division landing on Utah Beach on D-Day, as an assistant forward observer. Thirty-seven days after the landing, Martin received 14 wounds, five of which were life threatening, while fighting in the area south of the landing beaches.

After four months in various British hospitals, Martin rejoined his division in Luxemburg and fought in The Battle of the Bulge. Martin was medically discharged at the end of the war in Europe.

“Although I had been rather inclined towards pacifism, when it came up, I decided my moral duty was to resist the Nazi rule of Europe,” Martin said.

Martin said he hopes many more people will do the same if a similar situation arises. 

“I did what I honestly thought was my duty under the circumstances of the time,” Martin said. “I can hope that college students (and non-college men and women will too, if the situation requires it).”