HELMER ANDREW ERICKSON
Branch: U. S. Army
Rank: Private First Class
Status: Killed in action
Date of Service: WWII
Home Town: Sinclair Township
Brittany American Cemetery in St. James, France
Helmer Andrew Erickson was born March 2, 1912 in Sanborn, Iowa to Emil and Olena (Lena) Jenson Erickson. Lena had immigrated to America from Gudbrandsdalen, Norway in 1900 when she was 18 years old. When she arrived, she had to work a year to repay her aunt and uncle for her passage. Emil Erickson was born near Appleton, Minnesota and spent his youth there. He met Lena and fell in love, and relocated to Sanborn, Iowa where she lived. The couple married April 8, 1906 in Sanborn and Emil worked for the electric power plant and railroad. Son Oscar was born in 1907 followed by Alfred, Ida and Helmer.
The Ericksons moved back to Appleton in 1914 when Emil’s dad Edward wanted him to come back to help on the farm. They moved back into a house close to Emil’s parents. Three more boys were born at this house: Leonard in 1917, Merriam in 1919 and Oliver in 1923.
Emil had always wanted to farm up north so one day he and a couple of his sons traveled north to look for a place to rent. They found a place north of Pinewood in Beltrami County and lived there for 8 years. They sold cream and eggs to the Aure store and the kids went to school in District 72. In 1943 Magnus Blix’s former farm in Sinclair Township went up for sale by the Federal Land Bank and Emil bought it.
Emil now had plenty of help on the farm and so Helmer went out of the community to work as a laborer. He was working for B. B. Rogers in East Wenatchee, Washington when he registered for the draft on October 16, 1940. He was 5’9” tall, 140 lbs. with a light complexion.
Four of the Erickson boys were drafted when WWII started. Leonard served in the Navy, and Merriam, Helmer and Oscar served in the Army. Oliver was drafted after the war ended and spent 14 months in Korea in 1946 and 1947. Only Alfred received a deferment because he was married with quite a large family.
Helmer’s unit was the 47th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division. The 47th landed on Utah Beach in Normandy on June 10, 1944. By nightfall of June 16th the 47th had blocked the last escape route for the Germans in the Cotentin Peninsula. Next, they laid siege to Cherbourg and captured it, even with stubborn opposition. After a few days of rest and re-supply, the order came to resume combat on July 9th and soon the 47th was in the middle of the “Battle of the Hedgerows,” one of the bloodiest battles of the French campaign. By August 1944, the 47th had forded the Seine River and headed toward Belgium.
Private First Class Helmer A. Erickson never got to join the 47th as they became the first Allied unit to pierce the Siegfried Line in September. He was killed in action on August 15th, 1944.
Helmer’s body was buried in Grave 15, Row 17, Plot E in the Brittany American Cemetery in St. James, France. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.