Branch: U. S. Navy
Status: Died non-battle
Date of Service: WWII
Home Town: Bagley
1. Naval Aviator Badge 2. Edgar Arnold’s headstone in Gran Cemetery
Edgar Penford Arnold was born to John and Elise Paulson Arnold on March 16, 1918 in Chicago, Illinois. His father John had emigrated from Germany in 1882 and Elise had emigrated from Norway in 1904. John was a janitor in apartment complexes in Chicago and the family lived on North Albany Avenue in the 35th Ward. Edgar and his older brothers Arvey and Sidney attended public school in Chicago. Tragedy struck the family shortly after Christmas in 1929 when Edgar’s father John died. Elise went to work as a sales clerk in a dress shop to try to make ends meet and Arvey, age 16, took a job as an errand boy in a print shop to help out while Sidney and Edgar attended Austin High School in Chicago.
Elise decided to move to the Bagley, Minnesota area in 1935 when Edgar was the only one still at home. Edgar attended Bagley High School where he was an honor student and took part in declamation, class plays, chorus work and track. He graduated from Bagley High School in 1937 and went on to Bemidji State Teacher’s College. Teaching wasn’t on his mind as much as flying was, and he received his first lessons in flying at the college.
Edgar registered for the draft on October 16, 1940 at the college where he was a student. He was a tall, slender man with hazel eyes and blonde hair. He enlisted in the Navy Reserve in April of 1941 in Minneapolis and was sent to the Naval Air Station at Jacksonville, Florida for training. The Naval Reserve transferred him to the Naval Air Station at Corpus Christi, Texas in June of 1941 for more training as an aviation cadet. He received an officer commission at Corpus Christi and became Ensign Edgar Arnold.
His mother Elise received word in January, 1943 that Edgar had been killed in a plane crash in North Carolina on January 17. His naval patrol plane was taking off from a Coast Guard Air Station in Elizabeth City, North Carolina for a routine operational flight when it crashed. Two other men were also killed in the accident and two seriously injured. Sadly but ironically, Edgar’s older brother Sidney had been killed in a plane crash a few years earlier while engaged as an aerial photographer for a Chicago newspaper.
Edgar’s body was shipped to Bagley for burial and funeral services were held at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Bagley. The local American Legion Post performed departing services at his grave in Clearwater County’s oldest cemetery, Gran Cemetery in Popple Township. Application for a veteran’s headstone was made by George Buck of the Bagley American Legion and the upright marble stone was erected on his grave.