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Physician, 87 and Blind, continues to do
Newswise, September 2010 — France has named
Dr. Harry L. Messmore of Loyola University
Health System a Knight of the Legion of
Honor in recognition of his valor during
World War II.
Although Messmore has been blinded by
macular degeneration and glaucoma, he
continues to do research on blood thinning
The Legion of Honor was created by Napoleon
in 1802. In a letter to Messmore, French
Ambassador to the United States Pierre
Vimont said the award "is a sign of France's
true and unforgettable gratitude and
appreciation for your personal, precious
contribution to the United States' decisive
role in the liberation of our country during
World War II."
In December, 1944, Messmore was part of a
combat team that captured several heavily
armed German pillboxes in France.
Messmore was an Army artillery officer when
he helped lead the attack on the pillboxes,
which were part of Germany’s defenses of
their submarine operation in the St. Nazaire
river area. Messmore assigned ten men to
each of two cannons. In the dead of night,
Messmore's men dragged the cannons up a hill
by hand and placed them in firing positions.
Engineers cut through barbed wire to make
paths for the infantry to attack the
pillboxes at dawn. During the infantry
attack, Messmore's guns were among the
artillery that fired over the heads of
infantry to block any enemy fire from the
The infantry captured the pillboxes without
losing a single man. Fifty-four Germans
occupying the pillboxes were captured.
About 30 minutes after the successful attack
on the pillboxes, German artillery fire from
a distant location rained down on the
Americans. Two men were killed, and much
equipment was damaged. For this engagement,
Messmore received a Bronze Star medal.
Messmore landed in Normandy on Sept. 4, 1944
and fought in four major battles that helped
seal Germany's defeat -- the Battle of
Northern France, Battle of the Bulge, Battle
of Rhineland and Battle of Central Europe.
"The French people will never forget your
courage and your devotion to the great cause
of freedom," Ambassador Vimont wrote.
Following the war, Messmore became a
physician, board-certified in hematology and
oncology. He joined Loyola University
Chicago Stritch School of Medicine in 1968
and became chief of hematology (blood
disorders). Messmore retired from Loyola in
1992, but continued working part-time at
Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital until 1998.
In 1994, Messmore won the Stritch Medal,
awarded to a member of the faculty or
alumnus of Stritch who has demonstrated the
ideals of medicine promoted by Stritch.
Messmore continues to serve as a consultant
to the Hemostasis and Thrombosis research
team at Loyola, and to the Coagulation
Laboratory at Hines. To keep current with
his field, Messmore is read to by his
granddaughters, by his daughter-in-law and
by Marilyn Messmore, his wife of 66 years.
Messmore’s friends in France have called him
to congratulate him on his award.