The Legion of Honor is awarded, as we have said, for all kinds of achievement. The merit is not exclusively individual. In some cases, it may be collective and earned for common resolve and actions. In such cases, the Legion of Honor recompenses collective merit just as it does individual merit.
Foremost among collective honors are those for service under the flag, symbol of the patrie and the very embodiment of the regiment; it seems only just that the regimental flag should bear the insignia of the Legion of Honor earned through the heroism and feats of arms of the soldiers who are its defenders.
However, Napoleon did not award the Croix d’Honneur to his victorious eagles and made no such provision in legislation. It was his nephew, Napoleon III, who decided at the start of the Italian campaign that any regiment that took an enemy flag would have its own colors decorated with the Legion of Honor.
The first to do so was the Second Regiment of Zouaves which captured the flag of Austria’s 9th Infantry Regiment at Magenta—the flag was taken by a Sergeant Daurière on June 20, 1859. At this time, about 50 flags and regimental standards feature the scarlet ribbon.
Many cities and towns received the Legion of Honor after conspicuous displays of patriotism or suffering particularly through military actions. For them, Napoleon paved the way. The first three received the cross during the first one hundred days. By the decree of May 22, 1815, Châlon-sur-Saône, Tournus and St.-Jean-de-Losne were decorated for delaying the march of the allies by their staunch attitude. Paris was awarded the Legion of Honor on October 9, 1900 by decree of President Loubet.
The Order has also been conferred on all sorts of groups: schools—beginning with the Polytechnique at Saint Cyr (April 12, 1914), the Red Cross, the SNCF (French National Railroads), the Resistance networks and so on.
However, under the 1962 Code entities may not be recipients, and none have been decorated since that date.