CLIFTON PETER HAAGENSON
Branch: U. S. Army
Status: Killed in action
Date of Service: WWII
Home Town: Roosevelt Township/Aure
Clifton Haagenson’s marker in Netuno, Italy
Clifton Peter Haagenson was born October 21, 1917 in Roosevelt Township, Beltrami County, Minnesota to parents Carl Johan and Anna Peterson Haagenson. Carl Haagenson had been born in Norway and immigrated to the United States in 1905, where he met and married native Minnesotan Anna Peterson. They were married January 23, 1915. Their first home was in Clearbrook where Carl was a clerk in the Clearbrook Mercantile. The couple then moved to a farm in Roosevelt Township near Aure where their first child, Clifton, was born in 1917. They added five more children to their family in the next 18 years: Bernie (1920), Constance (1922), Robert (1925, Carl (1928), and Marilyn (1935). In 1930 the family moved to a farm in Buzzle Township (Beltrami), then back to Roosevelt township within a few years. The children all completed 8th grade and the boys helped their father out on the farm.
Clifton was 22 years old when he registered for the draft on October 16, 1940. He stated that he was employed by his father Carl on their farm in Roosevelt Township. He was 5’8” tall, 135 pounds, with blue eyes and brown hair. His complexion was described as “ruddy.”
It is not known when Clifton actually enlisted but he was sent to train with the 133rd Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division. This unit was organized with National Guardsmen from Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota, and the Minnesota National Guard had 3,800 of its 5,500 membership in the 34th Division. On February 26, 1941 the 34th Infantry Division boarded trains bound for Camp Claiborne near Alexandria, Louisiana, a cantonment carved out of the swamps and pine forests with tents as quarters for enlisted men and officers both. The camp had been hurriedly prepared and was still not completely equipped. The weaponry for training was poor, including .30 caliber 1903 Springfield bolt-action rifles, Colt .45 pistols and Browning automatic rifles instead of the new M1 Garand semi-automatic rifles which hadn’t arrived yet. They substituted stovepipes for mortars.
After a year of small-scale maneuvers and larger ones involving the Second and Third U.S. Armies, the unit was better prepared for the war that was declared after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The 34th was chosen as the first division to be deployed overseas. By January 1, 1942 they were en route to Fort Dix, New Jersey for shipment to Europe. They reached Ireland on January 26 and began intense and specialized training.
Real war began for the fledgling Soldiers of the 34th on November 8, 1942, with Operation TORCH, a three-pronged series of coordinated Allied landings in French North Africa intended to cut off the escape of General Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Corps after its defeat by the British at El Alamein. Elements of the 34th landed at Algiers. The operation was successful and the 34th, joining with other Allied forces, pushed eastward into Tunisia where stiff opposition by reinforced Garman troops was encountered.
By May the battle for North Africa was over but the 34th remained as a garrison force in Northeastern Tunisia until July. The 34th was held in reserve for “D” Day, the landing at Salerno, Italy on September 9, 1943, but on September 22 the 34th Division dropped anchor at Salerno and went ashore. The 133th Regiment led the way to relieve enemy pressure on the British, who were still trying to clear Naples. The 34th eliminated resistance at Ponte Romita, Monternarano and Benevento. The 133rd crossed the Volturno River under heavy enemy bombing and strafing. It was near the Volturno River that Sergeant Clifton Peter Haagenson lost his life. He was killed in action on November 1, 1943 and his body was buried in Grave 13, Row 14, Plot B, Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy. He posthumously received the Purple Heart. He was 26 years old.