State representatives Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Tom O’Dea (R-125) are inviting all members of the community to attend a ceremony dedicating the stretch of Rte. 106 that lies in Wilton as the newly named “Air Force First Lieutenant Charles M. Baffo Memorial Highway.”
The ceremony will take place on today, Thursday, Oct. 1, at 11 a.m., at Old Town Hall, 68 Ridgefield Rd.. It will be followed by a reception with light refreshments.
A Wilton resident for more than 40 years, Charles M. Baffo was a First Lieutenant of the U.S. Army Air Forces who fought in the Allied invasion of Normandy. He received multiple American military decorations during World War II, and last year, in a testament to the exceptional character of his service, the French government awarded him the Croix de Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.
Lavielle and O’Dea are inviting all members of the public to join veterans, elected officials, and Honorary French Consul Isabelle Evelein in attending the ceremony.
“Charles Baffo exemplified the virtues of the members of the Greatest Generation, who gave so much of themselves to our country and our allies, all with extraordinary modesty, loyalty, and dedication,” Lavielle said. “That his service during World War II has been recognized not only at home but also abroad testifies to its exceptional merit and distinction. This small gesture of gratitude will help preserve the memory of his exemplary service for generations to come. And I hope that it will also help us remember the contributions and sacrifices of all our veterans, including those who not only defended our country, but literally saved the world during World War II.”
“The patriotism and heroism that Charles Baffo offered in service to this nation during World War II is rare, and cannot be overstated,” O’Dea added. “His story and legacy deserve to be preserved and honored well into the future. Naming this section of Route 106 for him is a very small but important gesture. It will show the high esteem that this community and this state holds for his selfless service, going above and beyond the call of duty in our nation’s hour of need.”
Baffo enlisted when he was 19 years old. In 1944 he was assigned to the 490th Bombardment Group, and with the 8th Air Force flew both the B-24 and the B-17 Flying Fortress. As a bomber pilot he participated in the Allied invasion of Normandy and flew 35 missions over Germany, earning the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the European African-Middle Eastern Service Medal for heroism and his achievements. Born in New York, Baffo moved to New Haven following the war to attend Yale University, where he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Architecture. He then settled in Wilton with his wife Joanne, and remained there for over 40 years, raising their four daughters. He passed away on Oct. 17, 2014.
To commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion last year, the French government announced that it would accept applications for the Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor, from Americans who had participated in the Allied invasion that led to the ultimate liberation of France. Only those veterans still living could be awarded the distinction.
Although Mr. Baffo unfortunately passed away within weeks of a decision being rendered on his application, the French government, in a very rare move, awarded him the decoration posthumously because of his extraordinary actions. The ceremony will recall the story of his wartime service.
The Oct. 1 ceremony follows the passage of legislation introduced by Lavielle and O’Dea during the 2015 legislative session. Commemorative signage will be installed on Rte. 106 in Wilton during the coming weeks.