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Recorded November 2022
November 13, 2022:
As we’ve just experienced another Veterans Day, I will continue to share more stories of our military men. Last week I was reading from a letter that Arnold R. Monsrud had written home to his folks in Roseau. He was on a ship that made a landing on the coast of Japan after their surrender in World War II.
In the later 1945 newspapers, there were a lot of veterans mentioned as they started to make their way home after World War II. In the December 3 issue of the Roseau Times-Region, the Pinecreek news had information about several local servicemen. Private Gordon Kompelien left for Fort Riley, Kansas, the previous Saturday after spending his furlough with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Oluf Kompelien. Anton Arnold Nordengen, who had been in the army since May 1942, is staying home with his brothers. He served in Europe. Arthur Morken came from Fort Ord, California, last week, where he had been some weeks. He is also discharged. He was a German prisoner for some months. John Skogstad, son of Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Skogstad, arrived on Monday, discharged from the army in which service he had been since the fall of 1941. He had been in the Pacific. This will be their first Christmas at home for several years.
An item from the Greenbush Tribune that got reprinted in the Roseau Times-Region on December 20, 1945, tells of V. A. Taylor, A. C. C. M., and his family arrived in Kirkland, a town halfway between Tacoma and Seattle, where he will take up his new assignment. Previous to that he had spent 50 days of leave with his family in Greenbush and Bemidji. He was in Tokyo Bay when the surrender of Japan was received. In May, C. P. O. Taylor will have completed nine years with the U. S. Navy.
Another man who arrived back in the States was Johnny Magnusson, originally from Ross. He had been part of the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate). It was also sometimes referred to as the Viking Battalion. When the Germans invaded Norway, the Battalion was formed of men who were Norwegian immigrants having a good command of the language or other Norwegian-speaking United States citizens. It was hoped they could be placed in Norway with that advantage and sabotage the Germans there. They were initially trained at Camp Ripley in Minnesota and underwent rigorous physical training at Fort Snelling which weeded out some that would be unfit for the operation. After that, they spent about 8 months at Camp Hale, Colorado, at an elevation of 9,600 feet above sea level training for mountain warfare in the temperatures and snow that they might expect in Norway. Some of them were recruited there for Norwegian special forces and by 1945 were sent to Norway to carry out railroad sabotage in Central Norway. Many of the others underwent more training in England and Wales in 1943 and 1944, and then were sent ashore at Omaha Beach at Normandy, France, where the front line was close by. They were attached to the Second Armored Division and saw their first real enemy fire and sustained casualties. Their training during the previous two years served them well during a German attack at Elbeuf by the Seine River, where they fought down enemy resistance and took many prisoners. After that battle, they were transferred to the Seventh Armoured Group and were thrown into what was called the “Canal Drive” in Belgium, and soon after the “Battle of the Bulge” where the 99th Battalion was deployed at Malmedy. The massive strength of the Allied forces eventually drove the Germans back. The 99th was sent into southern Germany to do a clean-up operation of the former Nazi stronghold. They experienced the horror of the Nazi Regime through encounters with various concentration camps and other installations. It left them with no sympathy for the Nazis.
Finally, they were given orders to go to Norway, which was what they had been training for all along. Non-Norwegian replacements had filled in holes left by 52 men killed in action, 207 wounded, and 6 missing in combat. Norway was free after five years of Nazi rule. Two days after they arrived, the battalion was given the task of acting as a Guard of Honor when King Haakon VII returned to the country after exactly five years in exile. The Norwegians duly received the 99th as liberators and their strong bonds with Norway naturally secured a pleasant stay. They spent the summer of 1945 participating in numerous parades and taking generous furloughs that were used for sightseeing and seeking their relatives all over Norway. By the fall of 1945, they were on their way home to America.
Much of what I’ve just told you was from an article from the Vesterheim Museum which the Sons of Norway group in Thief River Falls included in a pamphlet honoring the 99th Battalion during a program with speakers and special honored guests and families of the 99th Veterans. Jan Strandlie was the MC for the program. She and her husband Jim visited our Roseau Sons of Norway a couple of months ago and presented a video from their event.
A small clipping I found in the November 8, 1945, Roseau Times-Region tells of Johnny Magnusson’s return to the USA. Here is what it says:
“Johnny Magnuson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Magnuson of Ross, landed in Boston, Massachusetts Thursday. He came there from Oslo, Norway, where he had been part of Uncle Sam’s forces since Germany capitulated. Mr. Magnusson trained as a ski trooper in Colorado, beginning on that job three years last February. Then he saw service in France and Germany before being sent to Norway. He is expected to arrive home any day.”
Mr. Magnuson married in 1948 and lived in International Falls with his wife Margaret Knepper. They had 5 sons. One of them was Richard Magnuson, the young deputy who was murdered in the line of duty north of Roseau in 1978. Sheriff Paul Knochenmus wrote about that incident and the aftermath in detail in his book, “Memoirs of Paul F. Knochenmus,” which you can see at the Roseau County Museum.
Thank you to (www.roseauonline.com) for letting us share our county’s history with your listeners by donating air time, studio time, and production staff every week.