A Red Bluff man will be honored by the country of France on Friday when he is decorated with the title of Chevalier or Knight of the Legion Medal of Honor at a ceremony at the Elks Lodge.
Dr. Andy Giambroni, known to many for his 50 years of service as a veterinarian in Tehama County, will be honored for his service not only to his country, but to France, his wife Bev Giambroni said.
According to a letter Giambroni received from French Ambassador Francois Delattre, the Legion of Honor is an award created by Napoleon in 1802.
It was created to acknowledge services rendered to France by persons of exceptional merit and is awarded by French President Francois Hollande, Delattre said in the letter.
Early honorees were required to have served in the French military for 25 years, but following World War II that was changed to include awards for heroism of veterans and to comfort the families of soldiers who sacrificed their lives to protect the country. It now has several categories, including the one for military service under which Giambroni is to be honored. In particular, it is a sign of France's infinite gratitude and appreciation for your personal and precious contribution to the United States' decisive role in the liberation of our country during World War II, Delattre said in the letter.
The French people will never forget your courage and your devotion to the great cause of freedom.
Giambroni said he was very surprised and honored by the recognition. It's a big deal for my family, Giambroni said.
I'm kinda surprised. I'm just a representative of the men and women veterans of today and yesterday. I'm just a figure of representation of the American military to receive this medal in thanks for what our people, our military and civilians, gave. I want to thank the wonderful nation of France for honoring me with this medal.
Giambroni, drafted in 1943 at the age of 19, served as a combat infantry sergeant and trained with the 97th Infantry Division before being shipped overseas.
While in Europe he served with the 50th Armored Infantry Battalion, attached to the 6th Armored Division.
I not only fought the enemy in France, but also in Belgium, Battle of the Bulge, Luxembourg and Germany, Giambroni said. I have witnessed firsthand our dedicated, brave military that gave their body parts and the supreme sacrifices of their lives so that we can enjoy the freedom and way of life that means so much to all of us.
Among his time overseas, Giambroni spent two weeks in Nancy, France attached to Company B during which he worked at the headquarters and was involved in communications for the company.
He also worked to repair guns and receive ammunition and spare parts for equipment.
Giambroni traveled to Metz in Lorraine Country in France, an area where many citizens spoke German due to the fact that it was an area both Germany and France disputed ownership of, he said in his book Odor of War. During that time he helped to provide overhead fire for troops using a 50-caliber machine gun.
He remembers seeing acres of cemetery land filled with American soldiers among other things in Europe. There were 55 acres in one cemetery there and that didn't include Omaha Beach and the number of our men buried there, Giambroni said. The Battle of Bulge alone was close to 20,000 American soldiers dead in seven weeks with 80,000 casualties and yet I'm still alive.
Giambroni, who was injured at the Battle of the Bulge in Germany, refers to it as his Million Dollar Wound in his book.
It was a shrapnel wound to the hand and fingers, Giambroni said. I was off the lines for about a month. I call it the million dollar wound because this was the first bed with sheets I had slept on in four months.
Giambroni, who has received several awards including the Purple Heart, Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Battle Stars, was one of the first to get the combat infantry badge in France.
Among other memorable moments during the war that stick out to him today is helping to deliver a baby near the frontlines in Lunebach, Germany, he said.
After World War II, Giambroni, who was born in Alameda and raised in east Oakland, returned to the United States where he was discharged. Seventeen days later (after getting out of the military) I got on a train and went to college, Giambroni said.
Following his time at Colorado State University, he joined his brother Joseph Giambroni in Red Bluff in 1946. The two built the Red Bluff Veterinary Hospital on Luther Road and were instrumental in getting the road, which was dirt when they started the practice, built in the 1950s, he said.
The last 16 years he was joined in the practice by Dale Shaffer. Other involvements while in Tehama County have included 17 years on the Tehama District Fairground Board, being a past president of the Tehama County Cattlemen's Association and a chairman of the California Cattlemen's Association Membership Committee.
He is also the author of two books, Odor of War and Dr. Joe and the Animals.