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Belatedly, WWII earns vet another medal

Herbert Neaumann received two medals, one for service in the Battle of Normandy and one for service in the Battle of the Bulge, and on June 24, he received a third for his part in the Liberation of Paris. Submitted photos1 / 3
While he was over seas during World War II, Herbert Neaumann painted his new bride's name on an Army truck. They had gotten married only weeks before his deployment.2 / 3
World War II veteran Herbert Neaumann (bottom) received the Liberty Medal, his third medal for his WWII service, and his first general's star from Army Brig. Gen. Gerald Matteson.Four of his five children, John Neaumann (left), Jim Neaumann, Mark Neaumann and Jean Neaumann, came to the event. Rebecca Rudolph photo3 / 3

Toward the end of World War II, Paris was still under Nazi occupation, until one night, the United States Army snuck past Nazi lines. On Aug. 25, 1944, Paris was declared liberated.

“People were crazy happy,” John Neumann said, remembering what his dad had told him about the experience.  

His dad was one of the soldiers hunkered down in a vehicle with the lights off, driving five miles an hour, sneaking past the border.

“He never spoke too much about it,” John said, “other than everybody getting hugged and kissed and that type of stuff, and the cheering. They were treated like heroes.”

World War II hero Herbert Neumann was honored with the Liberty Medal for being part of the liberation of Paris. The medal ceremony occurred Monday, June 24,at the Lutheran Home where Neumann is a resident.

This is Neumann’s third World War II metal, but one his daughter thought was important and should have gotten years ago.

“He didn’t talk about the war very much until the last six years, and, obviously, it was time invested in his life, but it was just that he was part of the picture,” Jean Neumann said. “I’d like him to see the credit he deserves.”

Herbert Neumann rose to the rank of sergeant in World War II and served as a German translator to help re-establish governments in Allied Power ceased counties. He learned German as a child because his church services growing up were only in German until he was 12 years old.

Since Germany had control over so much of Europe at the time, John said most people could speak better German than English -- Paris included, having been occupied by Nazi soldiers for four years.

John said he remembered his father telling him a story that once they were in Paris, a fighter plane was flying through the main street, “bullets flying everyplace,” until the plane was shot down.

Since his dad was the German translator, he talked to the captured Nazi pilot, who was afraid he was going to be killed.

“I remember my father telling him, ‘We’re not going to hurt you, but your war is over now,’” John said.

“I think the older the people get, the more they think about when they were young,” he continued. “When you’re in the military in your early 20s, that a big part of your life there.”

When Herbert Neumann returned from war, he worked in business and then settled down on a farm south of Hammond with his wife and five children.

John followed in his father’s footsteps and became a sergeant in the Wisconsin Army National Guard in the 1970s. Later his son, Ben Neumann, became a sergeant in the Minnesota National Guard and served an extended tour in Iraq.

“Back when I wanted to join the military, part of it was because my grandpa served,” Ben said. “Everyone comes away with a different feeling having served. That’s kind of cool he’s going to have these (medals) now.”