MORRELL HARVEY LARSON
Branch: U. S. Army
Rank: Private First Class
Status: Killed in action
Date of Service: WWII
Home Town: Sinclair Township
Newspaper article about Morrell Larson
Morrell Harvey Larson was born on January 23, 1920 in Clearbrook to parents Ludvig D. and Caroline Steffenson Larson. Ludvig was six years old and Caroline hadn’t been born yet when their parents immigrated from Framfjord, Sogn, Norway in 1883 and settled with other relatives living near the Kasson and Franklin, Minnesota areas respectively. In the summer of 1898 Caroline’s parents, Ole and Olena Steffenson, along with Caroline, her two brothers and Ludvig Larson began the long trek with horses and wagons to northern Minnesota where homestead land was available for $1.25 per acre.
Ludvig and Caroline were married on June 18, 1898 and claimed 160 acres in section 32 of Sinclair Township in what is now Clearwater County. They spent that summer clearing land, cutting trees and brush and pulling and burning stumps. Caroline often drove the horses while Ludvig operated the cant hook. They used logs from the windfalls for the house and barn because they were already dry and aged. After 20 years they had cleared 90 acres of land.
All eight of their children were born in the small log house: Lillian (1899), Harry (1901), Orville (1905), Lester (1908), Clifford (1910), Edna (1913), Durwood (1917) and Morrell in 1920. A year after Morrell was born they finished a new stucco house, and by 1938 it even had electricity.
Ludvig was known as a man of sterling character and sound judgment who held positions of responsibility in his community. He was the first president of the Leonard Creamery and Caroline was an organist in church.
Morrell attended Sinclair District #60 School and the Larson family boarded at least one teacher, Gena Sherva, who fell in love with Morrell’s brother Harry and married him in in 1932.
Ludvig died of a lingering illness in 1933 at age 55 and Lester took over the homestead farm while Harry bought a farm across the road.
Morrell moved to Bemidji so that he could attend high school and rented a room at the Third Street Hotel. He finished four years of high school while working as a waiter in a café. He registered for the draft on July 1, 1941, noting that he resided in Dewey Apartments on Bemidji Avenue and was employed by Lyle Caughey, Bemidji Candy Company, as a salesman. He said that he was married to Mrs. Morrell Larson and was 21 years old.
Morrell enlisted in the Army at Fort Snelling on September 18, 1943 and was sent to basic training in Camp Wolters, Texas. After a short leave at home, he sailed out of New York Harbor on March 23rd, 1944 with the 359th Infantry Regiment, part of the 90th Infantry Division (“Tough ‘Ombres”.) His brother Orville was a staff sergeant stationed in Italy at the time.
By April 9th the 359th was billeted in Devonshire, England and began a period of intensive training in mine detection, village fighting, assault on fortified positions, hedgerow fighting, road marches and obstacle courses. They waited tensely for the signal for D-Day, which finally came June 6th.
The 359th boarded the Susan B. Anthony for transport to Utah Beach, but struck a mine just off the beach at mid-morning of June 6th and sank in approximately two hours. All the men were saved but most of the equipment was lost.
Once the 359th had safely swarmed ashore on the beaches of Normandy, they and the 90th were given orders to press east toward the Saar River. All approaches to the Saar were heavily and ingeniously mined and enemy artillery swept the roads.
Caroline Larson received word that her son Morrell was wounded in action in France on July 6th and was hospitalized in England, but the wound didn’t keep Morrell down for long. He returned to the front and to his division. They moved steadily forward, clearing town after town until they reached the Saar on November29th. Because of severe German opposition to seizure of the bridge, the 90th decided to make its own bridgehead at Dillingen, the most dense, thickest portion of the entire Siegfried Line.
The 90th Division moved its assault boats quietly over the Saar in the pre-dawn hours of December 6th with the 358th Regiment on the right, the 357th on the left and Morrell’s 359th maintaining a constant hail of fire from the west bank of the river, drawing heavy retaliatory fire in return. Despite huge obstacles, a footbridge was finally installed and troops were sent across the river, only to have the bridge destroyed by heavy fire. The infantry which crossed was now engaged from the rear as well, and their only support was the artillery still in place on the other side of the Saar.
On December 15th, the Division was ordered to storm into the town of Dillingen itself and occupy the city as a stronghold. Though they had many casualties due to wounds, sickness, exposure and trench foot, the 90th pushed resolutely into the city, clearing house by house and room by room.
It was here on December 16th that Private First Class Morrell Larson met his death under unknown but lethal circumstances. He was quickly buried at the Temporary American Military Cemetery at St. Avold, France, then later disinterred and reburied in Grave 8, Row 27, Plot C of the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neuville-en-Condroz, Arrondissement de Liefe, Liege, Belgium. Morrell was awarded the Silver Star, a medal awarded for singular acts of gallantry, valor or heroism over a brief period. He was also awarded the Bronze Star, a medal awarded for heroic service in a combat zone, plus a Purple Heart. He was 24 years old.