Francis J. Knye
Biography: Francis John Knye was born on February 2, 1917, in the Bronx, New York. We have no information on his father but his mother Wilhelmina "Minnie" would marry Edward Hedenkamp and he would raise Francis as his own.
Francis attended local schools through the grammar level and later found work as a office clerk. He joined the New York National Guard on May 7, 1935.
Records indicate that Francis served in Battery F of the 258th Field Artillery Regiment of the NYNG. At the end of three years, he re-enlisted and was serving with the unit when it was called into Federal service.
Service Time: Francis continued to serve with the 258th FA and was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for Armor training. When he returned to the unit, at some point, he transferred to B Company of the 771st Tank Destroyer Battalion. The 771st had been activated at Fort Ethan Allen, Vermont, and visited the base on at least four occasions. The 258th FA provided a number of troops to form the 771st when the unit was activated but we believe Francis may have transferred into the unit at some later date.
The 771st would continue their training within the U.S., at a number of additional facilities including Camp Hood, Texas, in early 1943, before returning to Fort Ethan Allen and A.P. Hill Military Reservation in Virginia. The unit then moved to Fort Dix, New Jersey, for final preparations before shipping overseas. They transferred to Camp Shanks, New York, for staging and departed the U.S. on October 21, 1943.
The unit arrived in Liverpool, England, on November 4th, and went to Cardiff, Wales, for advanced training. The 771st was chosen to train other TD personnel in the ETO Troop Replacement system and Company A would move out and act as an advanced unit to ship to France in late August, 1944. The rest of the battalion would ship out on September 15th and join them on the mainland, equipped with M10 tank destroyers.
They entered combat with the 102nd Infantry Division against the Siegfried Line defenses along the Würm River on November 3rd and participated in the drive to the Roer River, holding defensive positions there during December. Converting to M36 TDs in January, 1945, they supported the drive toward the Rhine River in February and crossed the Rhine beginning March 31st. They joined the 102nd Infantry Division’s drive across Germany toward the Elbe River, reaching the Elbe on April 14th. The unit spent the remainder of the war helping to mop up bypassed pockets of resistance between the Rhine and the Elbe.
We are unable to find record of the circumstances of Francis' injuires but records do identify that he had received shrapnel wounds to his right forearm at some point, for which he would receive the Purple Heart. He had also suffered from frost-bite which would continue to cause problems throughout his life.
The Unit History indicates that personnel with high points totals (over 85) would be transferred to the 607th TD Bn and ultimately shipped home. Low number personnel from the 607th would be transferred to the 771st. These changes are confirmed in Special Order #73, from Headquarters VIII Corps. Francis was transferred to the 607th on June 30th, 1945, while the unit was stationed at Buttlar, Germany. On August 4th, he was transferred to the 499th Armored Field Artillery Battalion and we assume he returned to the U.S. with the unit. The 771st received credit for the campaigns of Rhineland and Central Europe and Francis left the service on September 30th at the rank of Corporal.
Now back in the U.S., Francis returned to the Bronx and worked as a U.S. Postal Carrier. In 1947, he married the former Evelyn Wolf, who was born in New York City and was the daughter of Edward Wolf and Anna Braun. The new couple would have one son, Francis Jr., "Frank", born in 1948. In his spare time, Francis volunteered his time with the Military Cadet Organization for Kids and was a member and past Post Commander, of VFW Post 95 in the Bronx.
Francis passed away on June 26, 1969, and was buried in the Long Island National Cemetery in East Farmingdale, NY. I want to thank Francis' son, Frank, for providing the information and photos of his father. I also want to thank Find A Grave contributor, Frank Wragge, for the use of the grave marker image.
It is interesting to know that Frank Jr. would serve in the same NYNG unit that his father served in, the 258th FA. He was not aware of this fact until our research into his father.