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Yves Knafou collection

 Collection — Container: Single Folder Collections - 2011 Box 1 (11.0001-11.0095), Folder: 11.0025 - Folder 1
Identifier: 11.0025

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of an oral history interview transcript of Yves Knafou, who served in French Algeria and France during World War II. In this extensive interview, Knafou recounts his experiences of the Second World War, but as is made clear by his answers, his memory is fragile and so must be taken with caution. At several points in the interview he contradicts himself and forgets what he had previously said.


  • Created: 2011
  • Other: Date acquired: 04/14/2011


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to all researchers

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to quote, publish, broadcast or otherwise reproduce from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Florida State University Libraries as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

Biographical or Historical Information

Yves Knafou was born May 11, 1922 in Sidi Bel Abbès, then a major center of French colonial Algeria as it was the headquarters of the French Foreign Legion. Knafou recounts how his father also served in the military, and was in fact a member of the French detatchment that was sent to the Dardanelles in the British-led Gallipoli campaign in 1915, where he was gassed. Outside of his military service, he recounts several details of colonial life: how the "native" quarter of Sidi Bel Abbès was called the "Village Negra," a legacy of colonial Algeria's heavily spanish roots. He shows incredulity at the name, given that the Algerians were not black, and claims that some of the Berbers in fact had reddish hair. Knafou remembers a close friend of his father's, a wealthy farmer, being murdered by Algerians he calls "fellahin." In Arabic this means peasant, but in French colonial Africa, and particularly during the Algerian war, it was synonymous with "bandit", and "assassin." Before enlisting, Knafou says his family hosted several American soldiers including a Colonel. He enlisted shortly afterwards around 1942, and trained in Aumam, Algeria. But there is significant confusion if this was with the Free French Forces or with the American Army. In colonial North Africa he was part of a transportation unit called the "Tran", collecting disused British and American vehicles in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. Knafou then joined the American forces that landed in southern France in Operation Dragoon, and was attatched to the Ninth American Army, where he seemed to fill several roles including interpreter, courier, and reconnaissance. He recalls the destruction of retreating German forces in the Rhône valley, a memory he says that still haunts him. Moving up from the Rhône, he also served in Lorraine, Alsace, and briefly (he says only one or two days) within Germany itself. His only memory of what could be classified as combat was when he spent three days behind enemy lines, when cut off while on reconnaissance. Shortly after the war, he immigrated to the United States, and says he moved to New Jersey, where he had friends, but this contradicts his obituary. In 1945 Knafou immigrated to the United States, moved to Boston, and married Mary Nutley in 1949, graduating from Boston University in 1951. Working first as a hotelier, eventually becoming Executive Manager, he then began to teach French and Math in New York. Yves retired in 1984, and he and Mary moved to Palm Coast, Florida, where he ultimately passed away on July 19, 2014.

Note written by Daytona Beach News-Journal (biography post-WWII)


1 folders

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Transferred from the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience to FSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives in July 2022.

Source of Acquisition

Brian Knafou

Method of Acquisition


Related Materials

Yves Knafou's obituary, published by the Daytona Beach News-Journal website:

Processing Information

Interview conducted on February 6, 2011.

Yves Knafou collection
Daniel Arenas
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the FSU Special Collections & Archives Repository

116 Honors Way
PO Box 3062047
Tallahassee FL 32306-2047 US