Martin J. Tougher
September 9th, 1922 – March 29th, 2010
My Father-In-Law lost his battle with lung cancer last week. He was 87 years old, a wonderful father, and grandfather. A member of the greatest generation, he received military honors at his burial. A beautiful tribute that always makes me cry but this time of course was so much harder. A decorated World War II medic, he received the following for his bravery:
• Purple Heart
• 2 Bronze Stars For Heroism
• 1 Bronze Star For Merit
• ETO Medal With Arrow Head and 4 Battle Stars
• American Defense Medal
• German Occupation Medal With Bar
• Presidential Unit Citation
• French Normandy and Liberation Medal and Croix De Guerre
• Parachute Wings With 2 Stars
• Combat Medical Badge
• World War II Victory Medal
• French Legion of Honor
• Croix De Guerre With Palm
The following is an excerpt from an article that was in our local paper recently:
6 decades later, French say 'merci'
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Four proud old men gathered yesterday at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum to receive France's highest award, the Legion of Honor, for helping to liberate that country from the Nazis 65 years ago.
Each rose to the occasion, advancing field by field and house by house across the French countryside, forcing the Germans back to the Fatherland and destroying Hitler's Thousand-Year Reich.
The Legion of Honor, designed by Napoleon in 1802, is one of Europe's most prestigious civic decorations. It had previously been given only to some American World War I veterans who helped France in that conflict.
But in 2004, the 60th anniversary of D-Day, the French government began honoring World War II soldiers with proven records of bravery, reviewing service records and details of their actions to make the determinations. Since then, about 800 medals have been issued at ceremonies like the one at Soldiers & Sailors.
The recipients, decorated many times over and honored again yesterday just days before Veterans Day, are uniformly modest.
Martin Tougher speaks with a rasp, the result of a tracheotomy seven years ago, the result of 40 years of smoking before that. But when he was 22, he jumped from an airplane into Normandy on June 6, 1944.
He had only been in the Army for two weeks when he volunteered for jump school in Georgia in December 1942. He wanted the bump in pay, from $50 a month to $100. Later he underwent training to become a medic and joined the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
He landed in swamp water and lost his backpack on the first day. He also lost his best friend, Mickey O'Donnell. It was the first time Mr. Tougher cried since he learned that his brother, John, had been killed fighting the Japanese in the Aleutians.
Mr. Tougher almost died, too. On June 14, 1944, a shell exploded in front of him on a country road and shrapnel struck him in the jaw.
"If it was down a little lower," he said, "I'd still be over there, I guess."
When his regiment returned to England on July 15, fewer than 800 men were with him. Some 1,200 were dead, wounded, captured or missing.
After replenishing its ranks with replacements, the 507th boarded C-47s to return to France. The unit made its way into Belgium, where Mr. Tougher recalls eating K-rations for Christmas dinner.
During the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes Forest in January 1945, it was so cold that his morphine froze before he could inject it into a soldier's hip. He learned to warm his supply with body heat.
The men didn't have cold-weather gear. So he made an overcoat out of his shrapnel-damaged sleeping bag and strapped a pick and shovel to his back for chipping out foxholes in the frozen ground.
"I would love to have a picture," he said. "I must have looked like a junk dealer."
Besides his Purple Heart, Mr. Tougher earned two bronze stars for aiding the wounded under fire in France and Belgium. After the Battle of the Bulge, he made a second battle jump for the Rhine River crossing in March 1945.
When he came home, Mr. Tougher went back to work at Westinghouse and married Mary Joyce in 1953. They had two sons, Marty and John, and he stayed with Westinghouse until his retirement in 1985. Mary died in 2002.
Mr. Tougher thinks often of his time as a soldier and the friendships forged in combat. He has been going to reunions for 30 years.
At one in Buffalo, N.Y., he met a fellow he had patched up. "Marty," the man said, "I thought I was going to die in that field." The man's wife kissed him and said, "Thanks for saving my husband."
Seven years ago, Mr. Tougher returned to Normandy with son Marty. There they met old women, still grateful to American GIs, who said they had used American parachutes like his for their wedding dresses…
Now I would like to ask a favor of you in honor of my father-in-law….Please say thank you to a service member or veteran for their service to our country.