By The Raleigh Telegram
HIGH POINT – According to Congressman Howard Coble’s office, a North Carolina World War II veteran has finally received a medal from France some 68 years after the war ended.
Coble’s office said that Joseph Kaper was presented with France’s Legion of Honor Medal on December 7th at High Point University.
Officially called French Légion d’Honneur, the medal is the country’s highest military honor. Kaper, age 89, was already awarded two Purple Hearts during his service in the Army.
According to Coble’s office, Kaper served with the 295th Combat Engineer Battalion in Scotland and England during World War II and was sent to Omaha Beach a few days after the D-Day landings on June 6th,1944.
At the ceremony, Kaper said that he accepted the medal on behalf of many of his friends who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
“In terms of Obama Beach, I didn’t want to go there,” he told the News & Record newspaper. ”I didn’t want to go to France. I didn’t want this medal, they drafted me. I accept this medal on behalf of all the guys that aren’t here. A lot of my friends are buried in France.”
According to Coble’s office, Kaper certainly deserved the medal.
In the official report about his service during the war, it stated that Kaper: “…performed every type of combat engineer mission with outstanding efficiency. You have crossed a large number of rivers, breached the Siegfried Line, laid mine fields and removed them, maintained roads, supplied water, fought as Infantry, both defensively and offensively, cleared the way through bomb destroyed cities, and performed innumerable other missions. You have been commended often in writing and verbally. You have supported some of the Army’s most famous Divisions and earned their unlimited respect and praise. You have taken your full share of casualties, earned many decorations, and have been recommended for a Presidential Citation.”
Kaper helped to build bridges where his units had to face fierce German fire as they were often the first American forces to cross the rivers. Kaper also disabled land mines by hand on the way to Berlin. As they got closer to Germany, the opposing forces often grew desperate, he told the Greensboro newspaper.
“We had to worry about German suicide bombers who didn’t want the bridges built because they didn’t want us getting to Berlin,” he said.
As a part of the bridge building teams, Kaper also said that he was able to see General George Patton frequently as they continued their trek to Germany.
“General Patton would have his photo taken at each bridge,” he said.
He served in Germany for several months after the war before finally going home. Coble’s office said that after World War II, Kaper studied engineering at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and worked as an industrial engineer field for 25 years.
Kaper was finally able to get his medal after he read in the News & Observer newspaper that it was not too late to apply to France for the medal, after some other veterans had so in recent years.
“We can never thank our veterans enough for the sacrifices they incurred in service to our country,” said Congressman Coble about the ceremony. ::
Article Posted: Thursday, January 3rd, 2013.