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Company G, 168th Infantry
34th "Red Bull" Division
The above photo was
in Italy. Sgt. Erlandson is wearing
a Combat Infantryman's Badge, a Campaign Ribbon and a Good Conduct Ribbon.
Sergeant Lars J. Erlandson served in both Africa and Italy for more than nineteen months before being wounded for a second and final time on February 5, 1945. He fought with General Clark's 5th Army as a member of the 34th 'Red Bull' Division. Sergeant Erlandson received the European- African- Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon with 3 Bronze Stars for the Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno, and Po Valley Campaigns. He also received the Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Combat Infantry Badge, Presidential Unit Citation, and the Good Conduct Ribbon.
in Vernon County, Wisconsin and was inducted into the army on March 8,
1943. He received his basic training at Camp Roberts, California and
training at Fort Benning Georgia, Camp Shelby Mississippi, Fort George
Meade Maryland, and Camp Patrick Henry Virginia. His unit went
to Casablanca in Northern Africa. After some further training in
North Africa he landed in Naples, Italy in December of 1943.
days after landing he was sent up to the front at Caserta.
|Private Erlandson during
Sign above door reads:
From an article written by a local hometown paper, Lars described in his own words some of the early action. "We were the first group to go in the line at Caserta. The Volturno was just north of where we went in one morning at two o'clock. It was dark and quiet, except for the muffled chatter of machine gun fire down the valley from us. We dug in for the night, but didn't sleep because two hours later, at four o'clock we put on our fist attack. From Caserta we fought through to Cassino, which was the worst battle I have ever been in. It was terrible weather with rain and snow. We were soaked to the skin and chilled through most of the time. Day and night the Krauts threw artillery fire at us. We were fighting some times within 300 yards of the Abbey at Cassino, which the Germans had taken over and were using as a point where they could fire down on us. Our outfit withdrew on February 14th and the Abbey was bombed on February 15th."
After Cassino his unit was given a month's rest and then on March 20th they were sent on to Anzio. "We were slugging it out with the Krauts, fighting across marsh land most of the way. It was tough going at times because they were dug in to defensive positions. On March 23rd we broke out across the highway that led to Rome. We fought on through wheat fields and had good tank support. The first day we began to take lots of Nazi prisoners and the stream kept up. They were surprised and plenty scared." According to a US Army Brochure on Anzio by Clayton D. Laurie, the 34th Infantry Division was near Cisterna on March 28th as they replaced the 3rd Infantry Division.
Sgt. Erlandson somewhere in Italy.
Lars Meets Ernie
Ernie Pyle from all accounts was one of the most popular and respected journalists of WWII. He covered the action in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, before being killed by a Japanese machine gun in Okinawa. He was famous for telling the individual stories of everyday G.I.'s and while in Italy, Lars met Ernie several times. One such time was while the 168th Infantry Regiment was crossing the Rapido River on January 20, 1944.
"We were resting at one place when Ernie came up and asked some of us, including me, what we thought about this or that. He acted like an ordinary G.I. and I remember he was a little man in stature and he carried the biggest bedroll I've ever seen. He was in the thick of it too, when we crossed the Rapido River. We had to wade and swim across and the Nazis were pouring artillery fire at us. It was risky business. I thought that's a place no man would have chosen to be, unless he had to. But Ernie was there, taking it with the rest of us. He wrote about things as they really were. We all thought he was a real guy."
Lars holding a .30 Caliber machine gun w/tripod.
In background is a utility trailer.
Wounded 1st Time:
Then on March 29, 1944, Lars was wounded for the first time by shrapnel from a German tank.
"The tank was hiding in the brush and our machine gun crew was firing from a bank alongside a road. This tank suddenly came out into the road and fired one shell at us. Four of my buddies were killed and one shell shocked, and I was wounded. I was hit by six pieces of shrapnel in the arms and leg. An instant after I was hit, I rolled into a ditch. Soon after I got up and started to walk, but didn't go far before I met a runner and asked him to send for a medic. The medic came quickly and bandaged me up. That was at seven-thirty in the morning and I laid there in the ditch until seven o'clock that night. My company was finally sent back to be reorganized and they took me along. I got to the evacuation hospital in Naples where my wounds were treated and where I stayed until August 6th."
He rejoined his outfit
August 28th, which by that time according to the article, they had
through Rome and were twenty miles south of Florence.
"The country around about was largely that of rolling hills. We began our main attack there on September 5th and gained about as fast as we could walk. We stopped November 7th at a line near Bologna. The mud was terrible and sometimes a fellow would sink in the mire up to his hips. Vehicles were practically useless and we used mules for much transportation. Sometimes the mules got stuck and we would have to haul them out. From our positions in the hills we could look down on Po Valley, which looked like really good farming land."
Wounded 2nd Time:
"It was our job to keep as many of the enemy's forces tied up in Italy as possible. So we were constantly on patrols or raids. I was hit the second time on February 5, 1945 when my regiment made a raid. I was in charge of a machine gun and had my squad located in a house. We ran out of ammunition and I went outside to get some. On the way back I was walking along-side the house and heading towards the door. All of the sudden a Nazi with a machine gun stepped out into the open and fired at me. I was hit in the abdomen and fell not far from the door. I know at that instant that I was hit badly, but somehow I managed to crawl inside the house."
V-Mail - February 12, 1945
Lars wrote his girl back home
and told her about being wounded.
I am not able to write much now but thought
"End of the 34th"
November 4th, 1945
Camp Patrick Henry, VA
Sgt Erlanson's buddies sent this photo to him as he was recovering in the hospital.
The soldiers are photographed wearing their Ike Jacket uniforms, but in a casual pose without their ties. This is obviously a photo taken at end of the war as noted by all their campaign ribbons and service stripes on the uniforms.
The PFC on the left front served 5 years overseas. A horizontal stripe denoted 6 months service and the diagonal stripe denotes 3 years.
Red Bull patch is clearly visible on the Sergeant on the left
On May 2, 1945, just three months after Lars was wounded for a second and final time, the war in Italy came to an end. In some of the pictures he had from his time in the service was a picture of a group of buddies that they must have sent him, celebrating the end of the war in Italy and the end, as they put it, of the 34th.
Lars and his Cousins Back Home after the War
Ralph Jacobson - Lars Erlandson - Harry Jacobson - Kermit Sagmond
In the background is a lady with a small child.
This pose appears to be "out of uniform".
Growing up, I knew nothing of the sacrifice and commitment my Grandpa had made to the war effort back so many years ago. I guess I always knew he had been in the Army but it never was a topic of discussion. We were always busy playing dominoes, discussing shot placement on a Whitetail Deer, or going hunting. I think back now and wish I had asked questions or been aware enough just to thank him and tell him how proud I was, but that never happened and maybe that is just the way he wanted it. On May 2, 1988 he passed away after a battle with cancer. Sergeant Erlandson was someone I never got to know but below is the memory I do have of Grandpa Erlandson.
I would like to thank my Grandma for helping me along the way to discover the part of my Grandpa's life I never knew. It started with an old cigar box full of mementos from the past. A Purple Heart, Dog Tags, Red Bull Patches, Combat Infantry Badge, and more. My research continued on the Internet and was helped immensely by pictures, letters, and newspaper articles that had been stored away all these years. Hopefully this document will preserve his memory for future generations to come.
Grandson of Sgt. Lars Erlandson
PFC Don Olson
Hq-Co. 1st BN.362 INF
New York, New York
John Jocham Jr
Lawrence McKinley Jr
Bristol New Hampshire
Major C. Freeman
Marshall North Carolina
PFC. Howard B. Edmunds
Co K 3rd BN 1st Marines
San Francisco, California
New Orleans, Louisiana
Grand Rapids, Michigan
John E. Gallegher
Roselle Park, New Jersey
Forrest City, NC
Presque Isle, ME
Arild G. Engelien
615th Ordnance Co AM
Rice Lake, Wisconsin
12 Med. Depot Co.
A special thanks to Chris Bladl for this story of his grandfather and also for graciously supplying the photos. If you would like to contact Chris, you may email me at Stevec01e.
A Memorial to the 34th Division
Recently, I was contacted by a retired Italian Army officer who was
the history of the 34th Division. Capitano
Riccardo Barni is a member of the retired officers association,
and lives in Prato, near Florence, Italy. Mr. Barni traced the
of the 133rd Regiment through the mountainous terrain north of Florence
during the month of September 1944. The struggle culminated in a
battle at Hill 810 near Montepiano on September 23rd. During his
hikes in the remote areas, Mr. Barni has located trenches, bunkers,
and unexploded shells that mark the area of this battle, just south of
the GOTHIC LINE.
Steve Cole - May 2003
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