Branch: U. S. Army
Status: Died of wounds
Date of Service: WWI
Home Town: EddyTownship
1. Olof Olson and family 2. Olof Olson’s headstone in St. Mihiel American Cemetery in Thiaucourt, France
Olof Olson was born August 7, 1893 in Solem Township, Douglas County, Minnesota. Solem Township is near Kensington, Minnesota and is the site of the discovery of the Kensington Rune Stone. Olof’s parents were Oluf and Marit (Mary) Lamberton Olson, who had been neighbors in Sweden in their youth and attended the same school. Oluf departed Sweden for America in 1882 and Mary in 1888. They met again in Douglas County, Minnesota and were married in the Vessnesborg Church near Kensington on January 7, 1889. Oluf had established a farm in Solem Township and that’s where there married life began. The couple had three children in Douglas County: Martha in December of 1891, Olof in 1893 and Julia in August of 1895.
Oluf and Mary moved to Eddy Township in Clearwater County, Minnesota in 1896 and filed on an 80-acre homestead in section 13 of that township. Two more children were born to them there, Ellen in 1901 and John in 1903. (Their home place is still in the Olson family almost 125 years later.) The children attended District #55 grade school and were baptized and confirmed at the Bethsaida Lutheran Church in Clearbrook. When he reached adulthood, Olof began working as a farm laborer for other farmers. His father Oluf died unexpectedly in 1915 at age 53, leaving 12-year-old John to be the man of the house.
Olof was working for a farmer, Matt Shea, in Sheldon, North Dakota when he signed up for the draft on June 5, 1917. He stated that he was of medium height, medium build, had dark blue eyes and dark brown hair, and noted that he was helping to support his widowed mother.
By spring of 1918 Olof was drafted into the U.S. Army. He was a member of the 357th Infantry Regiment, 90th Division. The regiment sailed for Europe on June 20, 1918 and eleven days later arrived at Liverpool, England. From there the unit assembled in the vicinity of Aigney-le-Duc, France, where they spent eight hours per day on the basic subjects of drilling, bayonet exercises, and minor tactics and maneuvers. Their training period was completed in August and they were sent to relieve elements of the 1st Division in the Saizerais sector of the St. Mihiel salient. Here they took up patrolling and trench duties until September 12th.
An account by the Regimental History section of the 357th wrote this about that day. “After a four-hour artillery preparation, the 357th jumped off in the attack at 0500 on the 12th of September. Despite the presence of two and a half kilometers of solid wire entanglements and trenches filled with various obstacles the advance was steady and the battalions reached their objectives in record time. Heavy resistance was encountered, particularly from enemy machine guns, and it was from these weapons that the heaviest losses were suffered. Nearly 200 machines guns were taken or destroyed as the assaulting 357th infantrymen brought the enemy defenders under deadly accurate rifle fire and overran them. During the night, the enemy launched a series of savage counterattacks, but despite the ensuing hand to hand fighting, not a foot of a ground was yielded by the sturdy Americans.”
Private Olof Olson was severely wounded in this advance and succumbed to his wounds. He was buried in Grave 24, Row 7, Plot B at St. Mihiel American Cemetery, Thiaucourt, France. The 40-acre cemetery contains the graves of 4,153 American military dead, the majority of whom died in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel. Olof was 24 years old.