PARIS, France (CNN) -- France has bestowed the Legion of Honor on 13 foreign nationals, including a journalist for CNN.
Journalist Jim Bittermann is also a professor of broadcast journalism at The American University of Paris.
CNN senior international correspondent Jim Bittermann, one of the longest-serving international journalists in France and a founder and co-president of the European American Press Association, learned of the award Thursday as he was preparing to cover the visit of Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
"This came as a complete surprise, without warning," said Bittermann, who is also a professor of broadcast journalism at The American University of Paris.
Bittermann has been reporting on France and the French for U.S. television networks since 1980 and has been a CNN correspondent for 12 years.
In addition to Bittermann, who is American and Irish, two other Americans were named Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor on the New Year's list released Thursday by the president's office: Howard Mamoian, a World War II paratrooper, and John Morris, a news photographer.
Other recipients include two people from Spain, two from Germany and one each from Greece, Belgium, Great Britain, Hungary, Morocco and the Netherlands.
Napoleon Bonaparte established the order in 1802 to recognize unusual military and government service. It is divided into five grades: Grand-Croix (Grand Cross), Grand Officier (Grand Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Officier (Officer) and Chevalier (Knight).
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