A new Knight
Fishers resident Leo Seghetti to be recognized by French government for WWII efforts
On Christmas Eve 67 years ago, Leo Seghetti left war-torn Europe to return to his fiancée and life in the United States.
He fought in four campaigns during World War II, helping liberate France and topple the Third Reich.
Landing on Omaha Beach 30 days after the initial D-Day landing, the Fishers resident fought as a forward observer for the artillery, giving the infantry an extra punch while they slugged it out with the entrenched Nazi war machine.
“We gave the infantry as much firepower (as) we could so they could accomplish their mission,” he said.
During his tour of duty, Seghetti was awarded a meritorious Bronze Star and received the Jubilee of Liberty for his efforts.
This month, he is poised to become a “Chevalier” – a knight – of the Legion of Honor, a commendation started by Napoleon Bonaparte recognizing those that do great deeds for France.
He said he doesn’t talk about his war experiences much.
“You can’t explain,” Seghetti said. “You can’t explain the experience you’re going through. You can hardly describe it. It was very frightening out there.”
Tour of duty
A North Judson native, Seghetti ran a hardware store with a partner after graduating from high school and before he was drafted.
He said he and his partner had no understanding of the business gifted to them by his father and another local.
When the draft became a reality for so many young American men, he received a couple deferments before his number was drawn. He volunteered for the Air Corps, hoping to avoid being placed in the infantry.
A new infantry division out of Tennessee opened in 1942, and Seghetti got pushed into it. He qualified for officers’ candidate school and asked for the artillery, citing his aptitude for geometry and algebra during high school.
He was a replacement officer, and he eventually became a first lieutenant, always working with two sergeants as a forward observer to call in targets.
The shells he called in would send shrapnel flying and sounded more like a Union Pacific train screaming over the battlefield than flying explosive.
“…You couldn’t tell the difference if it was a freight train or these shells coming over,” Seghetti said.
He experienced the receiving end of artillery barrages as well, one time jumping into a trench with two other soldiers as shrapnel whizzed overhead, punching three holes in the group’s radio. Somehow the shrapnel missed vital parts of the equipment.
When the war came to a close, Seghetti ended up near the Elbe River, 65 miles out of Berlin. He didn’t have enough points to come home early and stayed in Europe as part of the army of occupation.
Seghetti was back in the United States on Jan. 10, 1946. A month later, he married his fiancée, Genny, who managed to put the wedding together.
He ran the hardware store for decades after returning to the States.
While living in North Judson, Seghetti got involved with the local chamber of commerce and school board, serving as president of each for a period of time.
Seghetti and Genny moved into the Hearth at Windermere Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care about nine years ago.
They celebrated their 60th anniversary together, and Genny passed away shortly after.
He chose to stay at the Hearth instead of moving in with family.
He said that in the past two years, the Legion of Honor started going to WWII soldiers, and he applied for the medal.
Seghetti said he was one of 10 veterans receiving the honor from the French consulate in Chicago.
He said he was glad he got involved in WWII and “helped liberate France and get rid of Hitler.”
“I wouldn’t trade it for $10 million,” Seghetti said. “But I wouldn’t do it again for $10 million. It was a great experience.”
Meet Leo Seghetti
Born: May 6, 1920
Family: wo daughters, five grandchildren, five great-grandchildren
Hobby: When he still played, golf
Favorite drink at Hearth at Windermere happy hour: red wine
Favorite sports teams: Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Pacers