CARL PARELIUS GRONE
Branch: U. S. Army
Status: Killed in action
Date of Service: WWII
Home Town: Berner
Carl Parelius Grone was born August 11, 1911 near Fertile, Minnesota to parents Hans H. and Ragnhild Johnson Grone. The Grones were both Norwegian immigrants: Hans had immigrated in 1882 and Ragnhild around 1893. Hans had been married previously and the death of his wife had left him to raise their children Oscar, Hannah Kristine, Agnetta, and Olaf by himself. Hans married Ragnhild in 1899 and continued to farm near Fertile. Son John T. was born in 1900, Elmer in 1904, Henry in 1907, Ole in 1909 and Carl in 1911. Hans’ daughter Hannah Kristine died in 1914 and the daughter born to them in October of 1914 was named Hannah Agnetha after her half-sister.
In 1919 Hans and Ragnhild packed up the family and moved to a farm in Winsor Township near Berner, Minnesota. The younger children attended school in Berner and were baptized and confirmed at United Lutheran in Berner.
Hans operated a stock farm and the older boys helped him on the farm. Carl became a well driller and completed numerous water supply projects at many farms and homes in the Gonvick area. When the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 required all men between the ages of 21 and 45 to register for the draft, Carl was 29 years old. He registered with Registrar C. T. Skime in Winsor Township on October 16, 1940. He was 5’11”, 160 pounds, with blue eyes, and brown hair. His father Hans had died in 1933 so he listed his next of kin as his mother Ragnhild. Carl listed his occupation as self-employed.
Carl was drafted and entered the Army on May 6, 1942, where he became part of a U.S. Army experiment. The Army had decided to create its first all-draftee division and had brought men together from thirteen different states and hundreds of different occupations to form the 85th Infantry Division. Carl’s unit was the 339th Infantry Regiment. He was sent to Camp Shelby in Mississippi for a full year of training. After being issued his wool uniform, leather boots, mess kit, canvas web gear, canteen, helmet and self-loading M1 Garand rifle, Carl’s unit underwent three phases of training. The first phase was thirteen weeks of drilling and marching; the second phase was large scale exercise and specialized training, and the third phase combat team training to develop the coordination of all the elements for combat.
After a year at Camp Shelby, the unit was sent to the Desert Training Center on the California/Arizona border. They spent four months there to prepare soldiers for the terrain and other special problems of North Africa. Carl spent a short time at Thermol Air Base in Los Angeles testing wells. He advanced through the non-commissioned ranks to the grade of sergeant and had been recommended by his commanding officer to attend officer candidate school. He didn’t accept the opportunity, however.
On October 9th through 12th, 1943, the unit was loaded on several east-bound trains and sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey for deployment to North Africa. They spent two months on garrison duty at Fort Dix waiting to be transported. Finally, that day came. On December 29, 1943 the 339th and its Combat Team was loaded aboard the USS General William A. Mann and set out across the North Atlantic.
Meanwhile, the Allies had redirected their war efforts to the northern shores of the Mediterranean. The 85th Division’s battleground would not be in the deserts of North Africa but in the mountains of Italy.
Still more training was necessary. The next six weeks were spent in Algiers where the 85th learned how to scale mountains and maneuver over uneven terrain. On February 1, 1944 they were transferred to Port-Aux-Poules in Algiers for amphibious training. Five men of the 339th drowned during the three-week training course.
Finally, on March 27, 1944, the 85th came ashore at the Italian city of Naples. The 339th became the first regiment of the 85th to see combat during WWII on the Minturno-Castelforte front north of Naples on March 28th. In May, the 339th helped to capture Solacciano, Castellonorato, Formia, and Itri, Italy, then continued to mop up the Gaeta Peninsula. They entered Rome on June 5, 1944 and advanced to Viterbo before a short period of rehabilitation and training. The division attacked the mountain defenses of the Gothic Line in September and broke through, taking Firenzuloa on the 21st of September. They advanced slowly through mud and rain against heavy resistance taking La Martina and the Idice River Valley road on October 2 and headed toward Mount Mezzano overlooking the Po River Valley. Sergeant Carl Crone never made it to Mount Mezzzano, however. He was killed in action on October 20th.
The 85th had proved to be an exceptional fighting unit. They fought through three campaigns in Italy with such skill and daring that their German opponents dubbed them an “elite assault division.” The Army bestowed awards and commendations on the 85th at a rate nearly double that of other units serving in Italy. They not only fought well, they out-performed many of the volunteer units in their theater, won the respect of their German opponents, and dealt with the stresses of combat to a much higher degree than their fellow Italian Theater servicemen.
Carl was buried in Grave 9, Row 13, Plot F of the Florence American Cemetery in Florence, Italy. He posthumously received a purple heart.