MORRIS CHESTER GILBERTSON
Branch: U. S. Army
Rank: Private First Class
Status: Killed in action
Date of Service: WWII
Home Town: Popple Township
Morris Gilbertson’s marker in Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France
Morris Chester Gilbertson was born July 6, 1924 in Sundal Township, Norman County, Minnesota to parents Chester R. and Amanda Ramon Gilbertson. Both Chester and Amanda were born in Minnesota to parents of Norwegian heritage. Chester grew up near Pipestone, Minnesota. He married Amanda Ramon on Valentine’s Day, 1914 at Ada and they farmed in Sundal Township in Norman County. Their oldest son Clark was born in 1919. Daughter Ruth was born in 1921, Morris in 1924, and daughter Jana in 1928.
Chester was always looking to better himself so the family moved to Spring Creek Township in 1930. By 1940 they had moved back to a farm in Sundal Township in Norman County. Not for long, however – Chester found a farm in Popple Township, Clearwater County and the whole family moved there in 1942.
It was in 1942 that Morris, age 18, registered for the draft. He was working for his father on their home farm in Popple Township at the time. He was 6’ ½” tall and weighed 164 pounds, with hazel eyes and black hair.
Morris joined the Army in September of 1943, and received his training at Camp Wolters, Texas and Fort Meade, Maryland. By early May of 1944 he was a member of the 38th Infantry, 2nd Division and on his way overseas. He saw some of the most intense fighting of the war. The 2nd Infantry Division arrived in England on October 18, 1943, and landed in Normandy, France on June 7, 1944. Here is what he and his regiment, the 38th Infantry Regiment, experienced during the month of July, 1944, according to “Indianhead: The US 2nd Infantry Division in France June-September 1944.”
“The Indianheads were tasked with capturing the vital Hill 192, the highest elevation in the Saint-Lô area. The Germans were using it to observe American targets for their artillery. Several attempts had been made to secure the hill, but the Indianheads were pushed back each time.
Finally, on 11 July, Colonel Ralph Zwicker’s 38th Infantry Regiment assaulted the hill backed by two Sherman medium tank companies, one Stuart light tank company, and some engineers.
The 2nd Infantry Division’s artillery opened up on the hill, thrashing the defenders hapless enough not to be in their foxholes with over 45 tons of high explosives. When the dust settled the first of the Indianheads charged into the assault. German mortars opened up and took a toll on the American soldiers and the attack stalled. The Shermans went to work pounding the hillside relentlessly as the American infantry bounced back into action.
The fight for the hill continued to be tough. At one location, named “Kraut Corner”, German paratroopers fired on the Americans from an elaborate system of concealed dugouts and tunnels. Frustrated by these crafty defenders, the Indianheads called up Sherman tanks fitted with bulldozer blades and simply buried the Germans—soldiers, weapons, and all—and then moved on to Hill 192. Very few prisoners were taken at Kraut Corner, such was the intensity of the fight.
The 2nd Infantry Division pushed through the defenders and reached the hill’s summit around noon. They had achieved success through close cooperation between tanks, infantry, engineers, and artillery. With Hill 192 secure, the 2nd Infantry Division settled into the defensive along with the rest of the V Corps until 26 July. The American breakout during Operation Cobra propelled them across northern France.”
But PFC Morris Gilbertson never crossed northern France. He was declared missing in action on July 27, 1944 and reported killed July 28. His body was buried in Grave 9, Row 16, Plot H, Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, France. The Army had just established the cemetery on June 8, 1944 as a temporary cemetery. Shortly after the war the cemetery was moved a short distance to the east to a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach. It covers 172 acres and contains the remains of 9,387 American military dead, most of whom were killed during the invasion of Normandy and ensuing military operations in WWII.
Morris was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. He had just turned 20 years old.