Rossmoor man, 91, receives France’s highest military honor for covert service during World War II

Both the Contra Costa Times and the San Francisco Chronicle have nice stories today about William Kalan, a retired advertising executive who, at age 24, was a US Army Air Corp pilot fighting in World War II. On June 22, 1944, Kalan was piloting a B-24 Liberator bomber on a mission over the Loire Valley in German-occupied France.

German anti-aircraft and fighters knocked out his plane’s engines. Kalan and his crew had no choice but to parachute. He saw from a distance how his falling plane nearly hit a chateau, where, it was later learned, the French had hidden priceless art treasures, including the Mona Lisa.

Kalan hid in a tree for two days from German patrols, before finding refuge with a French couple. The husband happened to be the head of an underground resistance group.

With the French couple risking their lives to shelter him, he returned their kindness and courage by helping them with their cause: to make life as difficult and dangerous as possible for the German occupiers. Kalan told the Chronicle that harassing the Germans involved tracking German troop movements and going on some bombing missions.

For his efforts, the French consul general in San Francisco came out to Rossmoor Tuesday and in a special ceremony pinned on Kalan’s chest the Legion of Honor. Kalan was praised as an “exemplary human being” and the guests at the ceremony also paid tribute to the gentleman in the best French fashion: with champagne.

3 thoughts on “Rossmoor man, 91, receives France’s highest military honor for covert service during World War II

  1. What a wonderful post! He sounds like a brave, ingenious individual.

    I'm so happy to read of the honor bestowed upon him (though wondering why it took so long! I'll check out the full articles and see if they shed light on that).

    Congratulations to him!

    thanks for posting!


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