French President Francois Hollande presented three Americans and a British man who foiled a suspected terror attack on a train with the Legion d’honneur at the Elysee Palace, France’s top honor.
Two other unnamed passengers will receive the honor at a later date.
Americans Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, Briton Chris Norman and two other passengers overpowered a suspected radical Islamist on a high-speed train bound for Paris on August 21.
French authorities are questioning the suspect, Moroccan national Ayoub El-Khazzani, 25.
President Francois Hollande pinned the medals on the chests of the four passengers at the ceremony in Paris on August 24.
Before the awards, the president said: “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.
“In the name of France, I would like to thank you. The whole world admires your bravery. It should be an example to all of us and inspire us. You put your lives at risk in order to defend freedom.”
Francois Hollande added: “A terrorist decided to commit an attack. He had enough weapons and ammunition to carry out real carnage, and that’s what he would have done if you hadn’t tackled him at a risk to your own lives.
“You gave us a lesson in courage, in will, and thus in hope.”
Belgian PM Charles Michel and the US Ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, attended the ceremony, along with the head of the French rail firm, SNCF.
The Legion d’honneur was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. The award is divided into five categories and the passengers are expected to receive the chevalier, the most commonly awarded.
A French-American passenger who was wounded in the attack, and a French citizen who first encountered the gunman and tried to overpower him, will receive the honor later.
Francois Hollande named the French-American as 51-year-old Mark Moogalian, who is still in hospital. The other man wishes to remain anonymous.
The Americans spoke on August 23 about the incident.
Spencer Stone, an off-duty US airman, said he had just woken from a deep sleep when he saw the gunman and moved to restrain him.
He was the first of the three to reach the gunman. He was cut in the neck and on the eyebrow, and his thumb was almost sliced off.
Spencer Stone also tended to Mark Moogalian, who had been shot in the neck.
Alek Skarlatos, a member of the US National Guard, said his initial reaction was “mostly just gut instinct”, and that military training had only played a role in providing medical help and making sure there were no accomplices.
Anthony Sadler said: “The gunman would have been successful if my friend Spencer had not gotten up. I want that lesson to be learned, in times of terror like that, to please do something. Don’t just stand by and watch.”
British Chris Norman, an IT expert, said he helped the Americans subdue the gunman because he thought he was “probably going to die anyway”.
Under French law, authorities have until Tuesday evening to question the suspect.
Sophie David, a lawyer assigned to the case for Ayoub El-Khazzani, said the Moroccan was “dumbfounded that his act is being linked to terrorism” and that he had said he found the weapons in a Belgian park and wanted to rob passengers.
Ayoub El-Khazzani’s father, Mohamed el-Khazzani, told the Daily Telegraph in Algeciras, Spain, that his son was a “good boy” interested in “football and fishing”.
The suspect was flagged up to French authorities by Spanish counterparts in February 2014.
He is reported to have lived in France, Spain, and Belgium and to have travelled to Syria.
Security aboard the high-speed Thalys service on which the incident took place is being stepped up. The trains link major cities in the Netherlands and Belgium to Paris.
Patrols and security checks will also be boosted at international train stations.
Best-selling author of Capital in the 21st Century Thomas Piketty has turned down France’s top award, the Legion D’Honneur.
The French economist said: “I do not think it is the government’s role to decide who is honorable.”
His book examines income inequality in society and became a surprise hit, topping the bestseller list in the US.
Thomas Piketty, who was once close to the Socialist Party but has criticized the government of Francois Hollande, said he was unable to accept the award.
“I have just learned that I was nominated for the Legion D’Honneur. I refuse this nomination because I do not think it is the government’s role to decide who is honorable,” he told the news agency AFP.
“They would do better to concentrate on reviving [economic] growth in France and Europe.”
Capital, a book of almost 600 pages, sold half a million copies and was much-debated, particularly in the US.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman called it “the most important economics book of the year – and maybe of the decade”.
In 2014, cartoonist Jacques Tardi also turned down the Legion D’Honneur.
Others to have refused the award include philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and radiology pioneers Pierre and Marie Curie.
Bob Dylan has been nominated for France’s top distinction, the Legion d’Honneur, an award previously given to Sir Paul McCartney.the Legion d’Honneur
Bob Dylan’s nomination, by culture minister Aurelie Filipetti, was approved by the award’s 17-member council.
Chancellor Jean-Louis Georgelin wrote in Le Monde that although the panel originally rejected the nomination, Bob Dylan, 72, was an “exceptional artist”.
The “tremendous singer and great poet” got a lower rank of the award in 1990.
Bob Dylan has been nominated for France’s top distinction, the Legion d’Honneur
Satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine (The Chained Duck) reported in May that Bob Dylan’s nomination was rejected because of his opposition to the war in Vietnam, where France was a former colonial power, and his alleged use of cannabis.
However, Jean-Louis Georgelin did not elaborate on the reason why the nomination was originally blocked, simply citing a past “controversy”.
Bob Dylan shot to fame in the 60s as an icon of the anti-war and civil rights movements.
Songs such as The Times They Are a-Changin’ and Like a Rolling Stone became synonymous with the 60s counterculture, and he became a poster-boy for a disenchanted generation.
The artist also became an informal historian of America’s troubles with tracks like Blowin’ In The Wind, but his decision to move away from traditional guitar in favor of an electric version in the mid-60s proved controversial among die-hard folk fans.
Bob Dylan was awarded the top civilian honor in the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in May 2012.
Earlier this month, Bob Dylan was made an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Recipients of the Legion d’Honneur, the Legion of Honor, include U2 frontman Bono, artist Louise Bourgeois, singer Charles Aznavour and actor Jean Reno.
Fashion designer John Galliano, who was convicted last year of making anti-Semitic remarks, has been stripped of France’s prestigious Legion d’Honneur.
The decision was published in a decree signed by French President Francois Hollande and published in the country’s official journal.
John Galliano lost his job as artistic director of fashion house Dior over the comments made in a Paris bar.
British fashion designer blamed his outbursts on addictions to drugs and alcohol.
Fashion designer John Galliano, who was convicted last year of making anti-Semitic remarks, has been stripped of France's prestigious Legion d'Honneur
John Galliano, who had been charged with “public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity”, was given suspended fines totaling 6,000 euros ($7,500) over the incident.
The fines related to incidents on the evenings of 8 October 2010 and 24 February 2011 at La Perle cafe in the Marais district of the capital.
During the trial, the court heard how, during the February incident, John Galliano harangued museum curator Geraldine Bloch about being Jewish and hurled racist insults at her friend – of South Asian origin – before police came to break up the argument.
In a third incident, the court saw an amateur video of John Galliano, while drunk, declaring a love for Hitler.
Since the conviction, John Galliano has kept a low profile. Media reports suggest he is considering moving to Los Angeles.
The Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest award, is given to those who have served France or the ideals it upholds.
John Galliano took over the creative helm of Dior in 1996 and won British Fashion Designer of the Year on four occasions.