Now 87 and Blind, Dr. Harry Messmore Continues to do Medical Research
MAYWOOD, Ill. -- 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.
In December, 1944, Messmore was part of a combat team that captured several heavily armed German pillboxes in France.
Messmore, 87, lives in Indian Head Park. Although he has been blinded by macular degeneration and glaucoma, he continues to do research on blood thinning medications.
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."
Messmore was an Army artillery officer when he helped lead the attack on the pillboxes, which were part of Germanyâs 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.
Also during the night, engineers cut through barbed wire to make paths for the infantry to attack the pillboxes at dawn. During the infantry attack, Messmore's guns and other artillery fired over the heads of infantry to block any enemy fire from the pillboxes.
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.
Messmoreâs friends in France have called him to congratulate him on his award.