There's a new twist in the convoluted saga of Michel Thomas, the aging Beverly Hills language school operator who sued the L.A. Times for libel (and lost) over a 2001 feature story that debunked his biography claiming a role in several important World War II events. LAT editor John Carroll called the book about Thomas, Test of Courage, written by Christopher Robbins, preposterous in a talk this year at UC Berkeley. Now the twist: On May 25, at the World War II Memorial in Washington, Thomas — now 90 — got a belated Silver Star for combat valor in 1944 as a lieutenant with the French Resistance, attached to the 45th Infantry Division. French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte attended, and the medal was presented by Sen. John Warner and former Sen. Robert Dole. "I’m honored to be in his presence,” Dole said.
A story from the Army News Service that appeared on the main page of the Defense Department's website for a couple of days this weekend recounts many of the same exploits that Thomas claims in the book. The Army story actually credits the LAT's original feature piece by Roy Rivenburg — subject of a lengthy comment exchange here a few months ago — for pushing Thomas's children and supporters to pursue the medal. Rivenburg tells L.A. Observed via email: "It's fine that Michel Thomas received a Silver Star, based on the 1944 letter of recommendation, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the issues discussed in my article. John Carroll made a statement about the article earlier this year, and I think he summed up the situation beautifully."
Edited 1:15 p.m.