SELMER LLOYD PEDERSON
Branch: U. S. Army
Status: Killed in action
Date of Service: WWII
Home Town: Greenwood Township
Selmer Pederson’s headstone in United Lutheran Cemetery in Berner
Selmer Lloyd Pederson was born September 20, 1922 in Traill County, North Dakota to parents Arthur Ingemand and Alma Finneseth Pederson. Arthur was born in Ekkra, Norway and came over with his parents Sakarias and Josephine Pederson in 1903. Sakarias homesteaded the last open tract of land in Winsor Township, and that’s where Arthur grew to adulthood. Arthur met Alma, who also came from a large family of Norwegian heritage in Traill County, North Dakota, and they were married January 18, 1913 at Highland Lutheran in Cummings, North Dakota. Arthur and Alma briefly farmed near Paxton, Montana where their oldest daughter Marie was born in 1920. They moved back to the Gonvick, Minnesota area to Greenwood Township and had Selmer plus two more sons: Roy in 1929 and Arthur in 1933. Selmer’s father Arthur Pederson died unexpectedly in April of 1932 at age 46. He had been plowing with a walking plow that day and seemed in good health but passed away about midnight.
Selmer registered for the draft in Bagley on June 30, 1942. He noted that his mother employed him on her farm. He was 5’10”, 152 pounds with blue eyes and brown hair. He had a 7th grade education.
Selmer was inducted into the Army on July 15, 1944 at Fort Snelling, Minneapolis. He was 21 years old and single. He attended basic training at Joseph T. Robinson, a training post for the Arkansas National Guard which had been taken over for Army basic training and expanded to almost 50,000 acres. Following basic training, Selmer got to go home on leave for a short while before embarking from Fort George T. Meade, Maryland for overseas service with the 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division.
The 7th Infantry Regiment was already quite battle-scarred. It had participated in the amphibious landing in Morocco in 1942 and in Operation Husky which started the Allied invasion of Sicily. In August of 1944 the regiment landed in Southern France as part of Operation Dragoon, advancing up the Rhone River to the German frontier. It is believed that the 7th had more combat time than any other Army regiment in World War II.
Effective March 12 the 3rd Infantry Division became a part of SV Corps and plans were underway to move into Germany itself. On March 13 the Division began secretly moving to assembly areas near Etting, Schmittviller and Bining and was poised on the Franco-German border, waiting the signal to attack. It date and hour were set – March 15th at 1:00 a.m. Promptly at that hour the 1st and 2nd battalions of the 7th Infantry Regiment pushed off from Rimling. Division artillery opened fire with ten battalions with an initial barrage that lasted 20 minutes. The Germans had mined every spot accessible to their engineers and fortified their lines by digging zig-zag fire trenches, then sited their manned weapons on terrain which was favorable to them. Elements of the crack German 17th SS Panzer Division occupied a major portion of the sector through which lay the 7th’s zone of advance. The 2nd Battalion of the 7th forged its way into Utweiler and captured the town, taking many prisoners, in spite of thick minefields and serious casualties.
Two hours later a battalion of enemy infantry, supported by nine tank destroyers and four Flakwagons had ringed the town on three sides. When they started methodically leveling every house in their path, the 2nd Battalion was forced to withdraw because it had no supporting armor at the time. Only a portion of the battalion managed to reach the high ground south of the town due to a heavy toll in killed, wounded and captured. The 1st and 3rd Battalions had also encountered intensely-sown minefields and automatic fire from pillboxes. The 3rd Battalion formed an arc around Utweiler running south to east and renewed their attack. By 1700 they had advanced to a road junction and patch of woods a mile east of Altheim.
Pvt. Selmer L. Pederson did not survive this horrific day. The War Department advised his mother Alma, now living in Grand Forks, that her oldest son had been killed in action in Germany. Selmer’s body was eventually returned home for burial in United Lutheran Cemetery in Berner near other members of his family. He was 20 years old.