JAMES OLIVER LUND
Branch: U. S. Army
Rank: Private First Class
Status: Killed in action
Date of Service: WWII
Home Town: Gonvick
James Lund headstone in Bethlehem Lutheran Church Cemetery
James Oliver Lund was born November 20, 1924 in Eden Township, Polk County, Minnesota to Julius and Anna Mary Lind Lund. Julius’s father Ole Lund had come over from Norway with his parents at the age of 18 and settled in Eden Township. Anna’s parents were born in Sweden. James was an only child because his father Julius, age 34, died a year after James was born. Anna and James moved in with Julius’s father Ole, and Anna cooked for Ole’s family for several years until Anna remarried a man named Spokely and moved to Pine Lake Township in 1937. Spokely wasn’t present in the home very long, but Anna’s elderly widowed father, John Lind, moved in with Anna and James. James attended school through the 8th grade, then worked as a farm laborer.
James was a tall young man just ¾” shy of 6 feet and weighing 150 pounds when he registered for the draft in Bagley in 1942. He had the blue eyes and blond hair of a typical teenager of Scandinavian heritage.
James enlisted in the Army on January 25, 1944 at Fort Snelling, Minnesota. After training he was sent to be a part of Company I of the 306th Infantry Regiment, part of the 77th Infantry Division. The Regiment departed San Francisco on March 23, 1944 and arrived in Hawaii on April 1. The Regiment saw its first combat during the liberation of Guam in July, 1944. Guam was the only U.S. possession ever to fall to an enemy when it was captured by the Japanese in December of 1941. The 77th Infantry Division made an amphibious assault on Guam on July 21, 1944, then drove north to seize Mount Tenjo and dislodge the enemy from positions at Barrigada. Japanese resistance ended August 8, 1944 but instead of the planned R & R, the Division was directed to proceed to Leyte. It landed in Ipil and fought up the east coast of Ormoc Bay, secured Valencia and the Libungao-Palompon road junction, then continued mopping up into February of 1945.
The next combat assignment was Okinawa. The 77th Infantry Division had made 15 landings, securing Kerama-Retto and Keise-Shima for the assault on Okinawa. While at sea the Division suffered casualties from enemy suicide attacks. The 77th landed on le Shima, an island NW of Okinawa on April 16, captured the airfield and engaged in a bitter fight for Government House Hill and Bloody Ridge. It was here the famous war correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed while visiting a battalion of the 77th. It left le Shima for Okinawa on May 1, 1945.
Okinawa was the largest and most strategic island in the Ryuku chain and was within easy striking range of the industrial heart of Japan. The Division fought its way slowly against Japanese troops hunkered down in a network of caves and dugouts, with much hand-to-hand fighting in the torrential rains. The advancing troops were exposed to constant mortar, machine gun and rifle fire. It was the worst fighting of the Pacific war, its sustained intensity surpassing even the brutal combat of Tarawa, Pelelio and Iwo Jima.
One of the members of the 77th Division was Medic Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who earned the Medal of Honor for saving 75 lives during the Battle for Okinawa. (His story was the subsequent subject of the movie “Hacksaw Ridge.”)
It took the 77th 32 days to get to the hill town of Shuri, which was key to the entire Japanese defense, killing 14,000 Japanese en route.
Pfc. James Lund was not among the soldiers of the 77th that reached Shuri. He had been killed on May 11, 1945, in the attempt to take Wart Hill.
James’s body was eventually returned home to his mother Anna, who buried him in Bethlehem Lutheran Church Cemetery in Polk County near his father. He was only 20 years old.