Three World War II veterans honored by Gov. Nixon

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Photo above: World War Two veterans, (from left) Lloyd Cain, Frank Crooks and Francis "Bud" Jones receive the French Legion of Honor from Gov. Jay Nixon Monday during a ceremony at the State Capitol. Photo by Dick Aldrich (Missouri News Horizon).

By DICK ALDRICH
Missouri News Horizon

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- After more than 65 years, three Jefferson City veterans of World War II have received France’s highest award for service to the country.

Lloyd Cain, Frank Brooks and Francis Bud Jones received the French Legion of Honor medal from Gov. Jay Nixon during a ceremony in his office this morning. The award is given to soldiers from France and other nations that distinguished themselves during the liberation of France.

“When our military men and women receive extraordinary honors such as the medal bestowed today, our respect and thanks should even be greater,” said Nixon during the medal presentation in his Capitol office. “That’s especially true for this generation. When called, they stepped forward repeatedly, and our lifestyle and way of life is safe today because of their leadership.”

Cain is a Silver Star recipient for heroism during his time in France in 1944-45. As a forward scout for American mortar units, he distinguished himself under enemy fire on several occasions.

After World War Two, Cain returned to duty during the Korean and Vietnam wars. He retired in 1976 as a Colonel with the Missouri National Guard.

Crooks, who grew up and lived most of his adult life in St. Joseph, served as a turret gunner in a B-26 bomber during the Italian, French and German campaigns. He flew more than 60 missions over enemy territory.

On one of the missions, his plane was forced down onto what was a known German air base in France. But upon landing, the crew found out the base had been abandoned five days before. Crooks and crew then spent several days with a French family before being able to return to their unit.

After the war, Crooks rejoined the Air Force and spent many years with a Missouri Air Guard at Rosencrans Air National Guard Base in St. Joseph. He attained the rank of Brigadier General, and upon his retirement in 1984, he was given the rank of Major General in the Air Guard by then-governor Kit Bond.

Jones grew up in Vienna. He joined the Army Air Corps shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. During the war, Jones flew 117 missions over enemy territory, winning two Distinguished Flying Crosses before returning to the United State to train new pilots. During one of his missions, his P-47 fighter was so badly damaged that nearly the entire oil tank of the engine spewed into cockpit of his plane, completely covering him.

After the war, Jones served with the Air Force Reserve until his retirement in 1981 as a Colonel. He also joined the Missouri Highway Patrol, rising through the ranks before retiring as a Major that same year.