Branch: U. S. Army
Status: Killed in action
Date of Service: WWII
Home Town: Eddy Township
91st Infantry Division Insignia (Wild West Division) 2. Elvin Johnson’s headstone in Concordia Lutheran Cemetery
Elvin Johnson was born August 14, 1924 in Clearwater County, Minnesota to parents Henry and Julia Jensine (Sena) Eriksen Johnson. Henry was a Swedish immigrant who in 1896 was one of the first homesteaders to arrive in Eddy Township. Sena, born in South Dakota, was the daughter of Swedish immigrants who came to Clearwater County in 1893. Elvin was the youngest of ten sons born to Henry and Sena: Edwin, John, Martin, Clarence, Alfred, Selmer, Arthur, Elmer, Leonard and Elvin. The Johnsons also had a daughter, Mathilda. The Johnson children were all baptized and confirmed at Concordia Lutheran Church. They attended District 34 school in Eddy Township.
Elvin’s father Henry died in 1925 at age 61, only a year after Elvin was born, so he and his brothers helped their widowed mother with the family dairy farm. When he registered for the draft at age 18 on December 12, 1942, he was working for Edwin Fluskerud in Fosston. He was 5’4” tall, 130 pounds, with blue eyes and blond hair. Elvin entered the Army on November 15, 1943 at Fort Snelling, Minnesota with a group of inductees from Clearwater County. From Fort Snelling he was sent to Camp Wolters, Texas, where he received his basic training. Camp Wolters was at that time the largest infantry replacement center in the U.S. and the place where Audie Murphy, the most decorated combat soldier of WWII, had gone to basic training months earlier. Elvin was able to go home for a short furlough in March of 1944 before reporting to Fort George Meade, Maryland. He was shipped overseas shortly thereafter.
Elvin was assigned to the Medical Detachment of the 363rd Infantry Regiment, 91st Division. Medical detachments were “attached” to each infantry regiment to take necessary preventive and sanitary measures and provide appropriate medical treatment. They were the first line of treatment in combat situations, including emergency medical treatment in the field, removal of battle casualties and establishment of aid stations for triage, temporary care and casualty treatment.
The 363rd left for the port of Oran, Algeria in April of 1944 and arrived in early May, where it underwent amphibious training to prepare for an assault landing. By the middle of June the 363rd was on its way to Italy, landing near Naples at Bagnoli where it boarded landing craft for the trip to the front lines 250 miles farther north.
The 91st Division crossed the Sieve River, outflanked the famous Gothic Line (the last major line of defense along the summits of the northern Apennines), and captured the Futa Pass. By war’s end it had undergone 271 days of combat with a total of 8,744 battle casualties (1,400 of those killed in action), including Private Elvin Johnson, who was killed in action as the Allies were sweeping towards the Po Valley on April 18, 1945. Only ten days later Mussolini was captured by Italian partisans and executed, and two days after that Adolf Hitler committed suicide.
Sena Johnson received a telegram informing her that her son PFC Elvin Johnson had given his life in the service of his country. At the time Sena was a remarkable six-star mother, meaning that six of her sons were serving in the military in WWII at that time. The telegram made her a gold star mother.
Memorial services with military honors were held at the St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bagley on July 10, 1945 at 8:00 p.m. with the Rev. Fred Sommars officiating. Elvin lies beneath an upright marble headstone in Concordia Lutheran Cemetery.