Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Stories of Sacrifice

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World War II - U.S. Army

Alton W Knappenberger

  • Rank: Private First Class (Highest Rank: Staff Sergeant)
  • Conflict/Era: World War II
  • Unit/Command:
    1st Platoon, Company C, 15th Battalion, 30th Infantry,
    3d Infantry Division
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Army
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: February 1, 1944
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: near Cisterna di Littoria, Italy

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action involving actual conflict with the enemy, on 1 February 1944 near Cisterna di Littoria, Italy. When a heavy German counterattack was launched against his battalion, Pfc. Knappenberger crawled to an exposed knoll and went into position with his automatic rifle. An enemy machine gun 85 yards away opened fire, and bullets struck within six inches of him. Raising to a kneeling position, Pfc. Knappenberger opened fire on the hostile crew, knocked out the gun, killed two members of the crew, and wounded the third. While he fired at this hostile position, two Germans crawled to a point within 20 yards of the knoll and threw potato-masher grenades at him, but Pfc. Knappenberger killed them both with one burst from his automatic rifle. Later, a second machine gun opened fire upon his exposed position from a distance of 100 yards, and this weapon was also silenced by his well-aimed shots. Shortly thereafter, an enemy 20-mm antiaircraft gun directed fire at him, and again Pfc. Knappenberger returned fire to wound one member of the hostile crew. Under tank and artillery shellfire, with shells bursting within 15 yards of him, he held his precarious position and fired at all enemy infantrymen armed with machine pistols and machine guns which he could locate. When his ammunition supply became exhausted, he crawled 15 yards forward through steady machine-gun fire, removed rifle clips from the belt of a casualty, returned to his position, and resumed firing to repel an assaulting German platoon armed with automatic weapons. Finally, his ammunition supply being completely exhausted, he rejoined his company. Pfc. Knappenberger's intrepid action disrupted the enemy attack for over two hours.

Additional Details
  • Accredited to: Almount, Bucks County, Pennsylvania
  • Awarded Posthumously: No
  • Presentation Date & Details: June 8, 1944

    Rome, Italy, presented by Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark

  • Born: December 31, 1923, Coopersburg, Lehigh County, PA, United States
  • Died: June 9, 2008, Pottstown, PA, United States
  • Buried: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA, United States

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