RUDOLPH HEMMING NORDLUND
Branch: U. S. Army
Rank: Staff Sergeant
Status: Killed in action
Date of Service: WWII
Home Town: Weme
1. Rudolph Nordlund 2. The bulletin from Rudolph’s memorial service 3. Rudolph’s family. Front, L to R: Judy, Clara Marie, Astrid, Mary. Back: Gustav, Leonard, David, Walfred, Joel, Reinhold, Rudolph
Rudolph Hemming Nordlund was born November 14, 1918 in Clearwater County, Minnesota to parents John and (Klara) Marie Engstrom Nordlund. John was born in Ekshärad Parish, Värmland, Sweden and when he was 28 years old he accompanied his mother to America. He filed a claim under the Homestead Act for 160 acres in Eddy Township and moved onto it in 1896. In November of 1903 he was married to 22-year-old Marie Engstrom, who had also emigrated from Värmland, Sweden earlier that year. The couple had eleven children: Aina, Walfred, Leonard, Joel, David, Rudolph, Reinhold, Mary, Astrid, Dagny, and Judith. Their first child Aina was three years old when she died in November of 1907 as the result of severe burns. The family also felt a deep loss when daughter Dagney, age 17, passed away in September of 1932 from septic pneumonia. Her obituary noted that she was a warm-hearted, kind and lovely girl, a splendid example of young womanhood.
Rudolph attended elementary school at Pleasant Hill School until 1932 and then graduated from Clearbrook High School in 1936. He was baptized and confirmed in Oak Park Lutheran Church, a congregation made up mostly of local Swedish settlers located about ¾ mile east of Weme. The Nordlunds operated a dairy farm and it was always exciting to accompany the cream hauler to Weme, at first with horse and buggy and later with the Model T. Trips to Clearbrook were very rare. According to family historian Judith Anklam, one of the family members remembers saying to one of the brothers, “It’s my turn to go to town this year. You went last year!”
Rudolph’s father John died in 1930 at age 66, and the boys took over the running of the dairy farm. Rudolph enlisted in the Army Medical Corps on October 24, 1940. He trained at McChord Field, Washington, Santa Barbara, California and Brigham City, Utah. Due to the demand for infantry replacements, he was transferred into the infantry and sent for more training to Claibourne, Louisiana, Livingston, Louisiana and Camp Howze, Texas. He got to go home on leave three times during these training years.
Rudolph’s unit, the 409th Infantry Regiment, 103rd Infantry Division, boarded the USS Monticello, a Navy transport which was formerly an Italian luxury liner, with orders to disembark in Marseille, France. When they landed on October 20, 1944, they were immediately made aware of the ravages of war. They were met with the sight of sunken, burned-out ships in many of the docks, even though the war had long since moved on to the northeast. After a short stay in Marseille, the 409th moved into position in the Vosges Mountains in the early hours of November 9, 1944. (The Vosges were located in northeastern France near the German border.)
Another member of Rudolph’s Company G, Cranston R. Rogers, later wrote in “My Remembrances of World War II,” a description of that campaign, “In the driving rain, we started moving up on foot. It was all uphill and by the time we got to the top of Haut Jacques, the rain had turned to snow. . . We went from rolling hills like very southern New Hampshire to more mountainous terrain. These heavily forested hills had an ominous quality as I considered how difficult it would be to see the enemy in dense, shadowed woods like that. As we moved up the winding road, things became more eerie as we contemplated what we would be faced with. It snowed all night—some thirty inches. I had no idea how long we walked to get to the top of that hill to the Haut Jacques pass. When I drove up the road many years later, the odometer read seven miles from the turnoff to Rambervillers to the top.”
There was strong enemy opposition. Even though most thought it implausible to attack the enemy in the winter in the Vosges, the 103rd stayed in attack mode and pushed through the Vosges sector until it hit the Siegfried Line on December 17th.
Cranston Rogers wrote, “We hung on for four days and nights fighting off constant counterattacks and shelling as the Germans did not want us to have a toehold in their defensive line. It was my worst combat experience of the war for its intensity and being virtually nonstop. During those four days and nights, we had eleven men killed and fourteen wounded—the equivalent of one platoon—our highest casualties in any short period of time. We rotated positions on the firing line between the ten and two o’clock positions—on two hours and four off—and we frequently had to reinforce those positions during heavy attacks. I remember hearing a bullet go by my ear—that is how close it came.”
Staff Sergeant Rudolph Nordlund did not survive this push through the Siegfried Line. He was killed December 19th. His obituary stated, “He was engaged with his company in the attack of a hill and was killed instantly by shrapnel.” His body was temporarily buried in the U.S. Military Cemetery at Niederbronn, France, and a memorial service held in Oak Park Lutheran on February 25, 1945.
Rudolph’s body was later disinterred and sent home to be buried in Oak Park Cemetery, Clearbrook, where rest many other members of his family. He was 26 years old.