Art Klobe is getting ready for the 66th anniversary of D-day, when Allied forces invaded Nazi-held Europe and began the march to end World War II. Klobe received the French Legion of Honor for his role in planning the invasion.
"I was very happy to get the award, it is the highest honor the French Government can give to anyone, and it is rare for Americans to receive it," said Klobe.
The Naples man thinks back to the 1940's, when he was the youngest Army Lt. Colonel in the European Theater. Klobe was 25 when he was recruited to join a group of 100 in planning the Normandy invasion. They spent 10 months in England, planning the operation.
"It was a tremendous gamble. It was not a sure-fire thing. Nobody had ever done anything on this scale or of this size before," said Klobe. "Moving 150-thousand men, plus their equipment and ammo and food, and moving artillery and 5000 vessels, 100 miles across the water to Normandy, it was amazing. And it all had to be done in 24 hours!"
Klobe himself landed on Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944, D-day plus one. He helped save American lives by identifying the landing vessels that carried ammunition. He recalls standing on the beach and shouting at the top of his voice, "OK guys, here is the small arms ammo. Come over here and get it, and get it moving!" He identified at least 3 vessels packed with ammunition that helped the Americans fire back at the Germans and hold the beach.
"I am so glad that it was successful. If it had not worked, and we had lost the beach, we would be living a different lifestyle today, and we would be speaking German, I presume," Klobe said.
Later, Klobe arrived to liberate Paris with the first French troops into the city. "The people were out in force, they were crying, laughing, giving us wine and cheese. Just unbelievable," Klobe recalls.
Later, he led American troops that met up with the Russians near the Elbe River. That united the Western and Eastern Fronts, effectively ending the war.
Klobe received the French Legion of Honor in a ceremony in Naples. "It is a medal that dates back to 1802. Napoleon Bonaparte designed the medal. And it has much the same design now, as it did then," Klobe explained. "It is a huge honor, and I was very glad to receive it."
Klobe heads back north to Minnesota in a few days, where he will commemorate D-Day with other veterans.