Olathe veteran receives France’s Legion of Honor award for World War II service

French Ambassador pinning a medal on Richard A. Yunghans in his hospital bed.

At a small ceremony at Saint Luke's South Hospital in Overland Park, U.S. Army Air Force veteran Richard A. Yunghans, was presented with France's highest distinction for his service in World War II. Above, French Ambassador Philippe Etienne presents Yunghans with the Legion of Honor medal. Photo by Lucie Krisman.

Richard A. Yunghans, a 98-year-old Olathe resident and World War II veteran, has received France’s Legion of Honor award.

Celebrating the award: French Ambassador Philippe Etienne presented Yunghans with the medal on Monday afternoon at a small ceremony at Saint Luke’s South Hospital in Overland Park.

  • The ceremony, originally intended to be held at Kansas City’s National WWI Museum and Memorial, moved to the hospital because Yunghans was hospitalized after a fall over the weekend.
Yunghans visits with family and friends before the ceremony began. Photo credit Lucie Krisman.

Yunghans’ service: Yunghans served in the U.S. Army Air Force from July 1944 to April 1945.

    • In that time, he flew 25 combat bombing missions.
    • He served in the 95th Bomb Group, the 336th Bomb Squadron and the 8th Air Force as a ball turret gunner — as well as a tail gunner in the 484th Bomb Group, 826th Bomb Squadron and 15th Air Force.
    • Yunghans served in the USAF Reserves for 26 years, and he has received a number of other awards for his service — including the European-African-Middle Eastern Service Medal with 8 Bronze Stars, the Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, and 2 Overseas Service Bars. 
U.S. Army Executive Officer Mark Morgan of Leavenworth thanked Yunghans for his service. Photo credit Lucie Krisman.

Honoring Yunghans: Family, friends and fellow veterans took the opportunity to thank Yunghans for his service at Monday’s ceremony.

  • “I can’t imagine doing what these men did, and they’re humble about it when they’ve got every right to brag,” said Dave Blake, friend of Yunghans’ and reunion committee chair for the 15th Air Force group.
  • As a descendant of an Air Force veteran who flew more than 25 missions over Europe, U.S. Army Executive Officer Mark Morgan of Leavenworth said achievements like Yunghans’ are especially meaningful to him.
  • “For me to be here today, it’s a personal story,” Morgan said. “To see veterans like (Yunghans) that are still alive and kicking through the day and doing great things for this world and this country — we owe a great debt of gratitude to all of you.”

In his own words: “I did my job that I was supposed to do, whether I lived or died,” Yunghans said at Monday’s ceremony. “And I lived, and I was blessed.”