Both of my parents served in and survived World War II.
My mom, Dorothy Arnett Lofstrom, was in the Women’s Army Corps.
She worked stateside and helped schedule flights within the US for soldiers who needed flights home. Among her memories of her years as a WAC, she tells the story of having her picture taken with actor Edward G. Robinson who visited the base.
My dad, Albert Lofstrom, was in North Africa and Italy. He was a soldier in his mid- to late 20s, twice rejected for the draft because of his flat feet. But, the recruiter actually came to his parents’ Kansas City home in 1941, where my dad lived at the time, saying he was now accepted into the service due to the demand for more troops.
Like so many who have served in battle, he didn’t talk a lot about it unless asked. But, my brother recorded his experiences in one conversation, where my dad described what happened during those years.
So, here is an excerpt from my dad’s story, as told to my brother.
Oran: An old Belgian luxury liner was Albert’s transportation to Oran, Africa from a port in NJ. He was in the 431st Signal Battalion. They did heavy construction, placing telephone poles and wires. He drove a truck in the motor pool for just a few weeks, before being sent to Tunisia.
Tunisia: Albert was in Tunisia from early 1942 to mid-1944, where he also installed telephone lines for the Allies. They were given tents to sleep in on the many cold, rainy nights, a little perk for being part of the Signal Corps. Other soldiers weren’t so lucky; they got to tough it out in their sleeping bags and helmets. The Corps was usually about 6 miles behind the lines. The U.S. was pushing the German troops back from their once strong North African stronghold.
He also drove WACs back and forth to a military school and drove a supply sergeant around. Once he drove to the St. George Hotel in Algiers. It was here that his vehicle forced General Eisenhower’s vehicle to back up at a tight intersection. Making a general back up was not something you want to get in a habit of doing, but in this case, it was unavoidable. (He liked to tell the story that he made General Eisenhower’s vehicle back up…). He also recalled periodic visits with the supply sergeant to the home of a French Algerian family. They would share meals and drink some wine with their guests.
Southern Italy: In July or August 1944, Albert was sent to southern Italy under General Patton with the 12th Air Force, to which his company was attached (the 431st). Mussolini had been assassinated shortly before the troops’ arrival. Albert contracted malaria fever from the swarms of mosquitoes. He remembers having a high fever and terrible chills. Here, he went to the “front,” moving into the Apennines Mountains in the Po Valley area.
He recalls it was bitterly cold the winter of 1944/45. The Germans were just on the other side of the mountains, and everyone was suffering. It seemed to be a big stand-off; no one really wanted to fight. The Germans were retreating in many places across Europe and without many supplies. They were only 1,000 yards apart for several weeks in the worst part of the winter. If someone shot, then a great barrage of shots was exchanged. So, they mostly just guarded their ground and tried to stay warm. Albert suffered from frozen feet during these difficult conditions. The Germans eventually retreated here in the spring. (Copyright: Gary E. Lofstrom, 1998)
Just to confirm the after-war update, my parents met in 1947 and were married for 50 years.
You may have read past blog posts on the HIMSS Blog about Memorial Day. These posts related stories of men and women who served their country. Here are links to two of those past posts, written by HIMSS staff members – past and present – who are veterans.
So, take some time today to read and remember our veterans honored today.
The HIMSS office in the United States is closed on Monday, May 25, in honor of Memorial Day. The history of this national holiday begins in 1866 after the Civil War, and now, honors all who have died in American wars.