More than 45 years after helping drive Nazi Germany’s forces out of France, Herbert Knapp, 86, of Baltimore MD, was honored March 10, 2010, at the French Consul in Washington, D.C., for his service during World War II. He was among 23 other World War II veterans from other units and divisions fighting in France, to receive the medal.
Knapp was named a Chevalier, or knight of the Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur – Legion of Honor, which is France’s highest civilian award and similar to the U.S. Medal of Honor. It is the highest honor France can bestow upon a civilian. It represents the French republic’s high esteem, the letter accompanying his medal said, adding it is “a sign of France’s true and unforgettable gratitude and appreciation for your personal, precious contribution to the United States’ decisive role in the liberation of our country during World War II.”
At the ceremony, Consul General of France Michel Schaffhauser thanked the honorees and explained the award. French Ambassador Pierre Vimont also attended. French and American military officials shook hands with each of the veterans and thanked them. Among them representing the Pentagon was the Director of the army Staff. LTG David Huntoon. Joining Knapp at the ceremony were his four children, Barbara Knapp and Herbert E. Knapp of Baltimore MD, Beverly Knapp of Alexandria VA, and Michael Knapp of Washington, D.C., as well as two other members of the family, Cynthia McElroy and Edith Creef.
Knapp entered military service in 1943, and spent three years and six months in the active Army. His duty as a soldier in the 394th Regiment of the 99th Infantry Division found him near the front lines in some of the more well known battles of World War II.
After Army basic training at Camp Robinson in Little Rock AR, in March 1944, his training in engineering commenced at the University of Arkansas in the Army Specialized Training Program. When that program was discontinued he was reassigned to Camp Maxey at Paris TX, to finish his engineering training. At that time the 99th Division was on its way overseas, first to England, France, Belgium, and finally Germany.
Five weeks later, they were caught up in what has been described as the most critical and decisive battle of World War II, the Battle of the Bulge.
In late January 1945, the 99th Division went on the offensive, moving through villages and towns across the Rhineland to the outskirts of Cologne. When the Remagen Bridge over the Rhine was captured in early March 1945, some of the 99th were the first there. Knapp was selected to attend Officers Candidate School at Napoleon’s Encampment at Le Fontainebleau France. He graduated as a second lieutenant in May 1946, and was assigned to various divisions in the Army of Occupation.
Upon his return to the States, Lt. Knapp entered the Army Reserves, and achieved the rank of colonel before being honorably separated in 1976. He continued his military education by graduating from the Transportation School at Ft. Eustis VA, the Command and Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth KS, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Washington, D.C.