LIBERATED FRENCH VILLAGE 2 WEEKS AFTER D-DAY
Square will bear US hero’s name
Mexican American commander led parachutists into heavy fire
After jumping behind enemy lines with his parachute infantry regiment on D-Day and fighting his way into Nazi-occupied France Louis Mendez Jr then a young lieutenant colonel in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division came to a life-or-death choice at the edge of Pretot a tiny village in Normandy Two assault companies of the battalion he commanded were pinned down by withering mortar artillery and machine-gun fire from entrenched German soldiers Delay meant seeing his men - average age 18 - chewed to pieces barely two weeks after landing on French
soil Mendez crept to the front jumped to his feet and led his lightly armed paratroopers in a charge that drove out the Nazis and liberated the village This week during the 58th anniversary of the largest air land and sea operation in military history Pretot is remembering Mendez by naming its main square after him and unveiling a marker in his honor But the rare accolade has come too late for the longtime northern Virginia resident Mendez one of the few Mexican American graduates of the US Military Academy before World War H died in September at his home in Falls Church after a stroke He was 86 “I think he will be very pleased” said his widow Jean who still lives in the Lake Bar-croft home the couple bought in 1954 “And one of the things he will be most pleased about is that so many members of his family will be there He will be smiling” At least 30 members of the Mendez clan are making the trip including Jean Mendez and eight of the couple’s 12 children seven of their spouses nine grandchildren and others Pretot a town of 500 has invited more than 20 men who fought under Mendez in the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment as well as the US military
attaché in Paris Among the veterans attending is Thomas Porcella 78 a retired airplane maintenance worker from Melbourne Fla “We had a lot of casualties in that town” he said of Pretot “It’s a very emotional thing I go back for the memories of the fellows we lost and what we left over there I promised Td do all in my power to make sure the men of the 508th get memorialized and now they’re going to do something for our battalion commander”
Louis G. Mendez, [1915 - 2001]
This prominent stone is near Roosevelt Drive, just below the amphitheatre. (Section 7A, Grave 145)
on the obverse side is mention that Mendez was a West Point graduate, class of
1940, and that he received the Distinguished Service Cross.
Capt Mendez transferred to Hq 1st, 508 PIR
from the Parachute School, Fort Benning, GA on 1 October 1942 and was
officially listed as a cadre team member from the 508th on 16 October.
Major Mendez was announced as Battalion
Commander, Third Battalion relieving Major John G. Turner on 13 December
He was promoted to Lt. Colonel on 17 July
On 22 September 1943 he was awarded
the Distinguished Service
Lt Col Mendez was awarded the Bronze Star
Medal for Meritorious Service as Battalion Commanding Officer on 17 February
1945 and received an Oak Leaf Cluster again for Meritorious Service as
Battalion Commanding Officer on May 1945.
He received the French Croix de Guerre
with Palm for heroic conduct in the liberation of France.
Col Mendez retired from the Army in