Paul H. Jarrett, 102; World War I Army Hero

Paul H. Jarrett, a World War I U.S. Army lieutenant who was awarded the French Legion of Honor just two years ago for his role in liberating a French town in 1918, died Wednesday at the Veterans Administration Medical Center. He was 102.

Jarrett, who earned a Purple Heart battling the Germans in the trenches of Neuviller les Badonviller, was honored with France’s highest decoration in October 1996 in a ceremony at the French Consulate in Westwood conducted by the acting French consul.

Jarrett served in the famed Rainbow Division, made up of National Guard companies from more than 25 states. It was named by Douglas MacArthur--the future general served in the division--because it spanned the nation like a rainbow.

The World War I veteran visited Neuviller les Badonviller in 1989 with his grandson Clark, who was interested in filming a documentary about his grandfather’s military service. When the villagers found out who he was, they held a ceremony in his honor and named a street--Rue de Paul H. Jarrett--after him.


The townspeople then wrote to President Jacques Chirac requesting Jarrett receive the Legion of Honor in the rank of chevalier, or knight. Only a few people receive the award each year and only rarely are foreigners honored.

“It’s not for me,” Jarrett said after receiving the medal. “I merely represent what they think about American soldiers.”

After the war, Jarrett moved to California, where he served as city clerk in Culver City and later as the city’s postmaster for 20 years. After he retired, he worked as a prop man for MGM studios in Culver City.

“He was one of the last gentlemen from an era that is vanishing,” Clark Jarrett said. “He was a true gentleman, the kind of person who lives with honor. He’s a dying breed.”

“You would never know he killed with his bare hands.”

Clark finished editing the documentary, titled “The Return of Paul Jarrett,” on Friday. He said he had hoped to finish it before his grandfather died.

Jarrett’s family intends to return his French medal to Neuviller les Badonviller to be displayed there.

A memorial service is pending at the West Los Angeles Veterans Cemetery in Westwood. He will be cremated and his ashes scattered at sea.