Spencer Stone, 23, Alek Skarlatos, 22, and Anthony Sadler, 23, three friends on a European vacation, and British businessman Chris Norman, 62, were awarded the Legion d'Honneur by French President François Hollande at the Elysée Palace.
The three young Americans, who have been hailed as heroes around the world, looked slightly embarrassed as Hollande pinned the ribboned medals on their polo shirts before embracing them and kissing them on each cheek.
The trio wrestled an AK-47-toting gunman to the floor after he allegedly opened fire on a train from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday afternoon. The bare-chested assailant also had a Luger handgun and a box cutter, which he used to slash Stone's head and slice his hand, nearly severing his thumb. But Stone and Skarlatos, both stocky American servicemen, and Sadler were able to disarm the attacker and beat him unconscious.
The attacker has been identified as Ayoub El Khazzani, a 25-year-old Moroccan national who is reportedly on security watch lists in four European countries for his alleged links to radical Islamic group
Hollande described the attack as a work of "terrorism" and credited the men with averting a bloodbath.
"We are here to honor four men who, thanks to their bravery, managed to save lives. They showed what could be done in terrible circumstances," Hollande said. "In the name of France, I would like to thank you. The whole world admires your courage, your sangfroid, your responsibility.
"Your heroism should be an example to us all and a source of inspiration," the French leader said. "Faced with an evil -- and that's what it was -- called terrorism, there is a good, called humanity."
Hollande said the gunman had "enough arms and ammunition to provoke a real carnage" on the train.
And that's what he would have done if you hadn't taken every risk, including that to your own lives, and overpowered him," Hollande told the four men.
Three other train passengers -- a 28-year-old Frenchman who first confronted El Khazzani when he came out of a washroom brandishing his weapons, a 51-year-old French-American who was shot in the throat and is in the hospital, and an off-duty train driver who helped neutralize the gunman -- will also receive the Legion d’Honneur.
This write up was courtesy of the Los Angeles Times