1994 ARTICLE: Memories Vivid
1942 ARTICLE: Halvorson Boys in Military
2001 OBITUARY for Gerald
1945 ARTICLE 1: Wounded; Patton Awards Halvorson
1945 ARTICLE 2: Gerald and Brother wounded
1996 ARTICLE: Golden anniversary
1979 ARTICLE 1: 35th Anniversary of D Day
1979 ARTICLE 2: Halvorson's in Europe
1994 ARTICLE FROM CASA GRANDE
GERALD HALVORSON, a 27-year Casa Grande resident and retired Casa Grande Junior High School teacher, reflects with Staff Photo by Jerry Welch mementoes of the war in France, including a book, "Battalion Surgeon," written by a doctor from his division.
Reunions Helped Ease Pain
of Casa Grande Vet
By JONETTA R. TRUED
Gerald Halvorson has invaded France a couple of times -- once he carried a gun, another time he carried a camera. Halvorson first hit the beaches of Normandy June 8, 1944 -- or D-Day plus 2.
Memories of France Still Vivid
The second time he went was as part of a contingent of returning veterans 35 years after the invasion of Allied troops. He would have liked to have been among the throng revisiting D-Day monuments this year, but it just wasn't possible. "I'd like to be able to go," 90th Infantry Division World War II veteran Halvorson said recently in his Casa Grande home. One of the main reasons is that this time veterans could also revisit sites in Czechoslovakia.
"When we toured in 1979, we went to England, Normandy, through France and into Germany, but not Czechoslovakia. That's where we were when the war ended. This time of course, we'd get to go there," Halvorson explained.
Halvorson's division landed on Utah Beach during the invasion. "We didn't get on land on D-Day, but we were sitting on ships out in the ocean," Halvorson said. "Early on June 8 we went in. I keep thinking it was supposed to be that way." And then the fighting began in earnest for Halvorson. The first two weeks, he said, were critical to a soldier's survival, although it becomes an instinct after a while. Casualties were heavy. Of them, Halvorson has personal memories of many who would not come home. "We were a family is what it amounted to," Halvorson said.
"Our first night we were at our assembly point and a plane flew low over us," he recalled. "Someone started firing at it in the dark until someone else said "stop firing, that's one of our planes." That was a typical reaction of troops not seasoned to combat. Later we could tell by the sound of the planes."
Halvorson actually began his military career two years before D-Day. First trained to go to Africa in a motorized division, Halvorson said his military superiors decided that was nearly over. "So we trained for the Pacific. Then they decided that was nearly over and then we were trained for D-Day because they needed more men for that." But, in the fighting in Normandy's hedgerows, nearly a fourth of Halvorson's company was lost to death, wounds or capture.
Some of his most recurrent memories are of the men who are still there. "A week doesn't go by that I don't think about some of the fellows we left over there," Halvorson said. One of his friends, he had planned to travel across the country with upon their return stateside. And he remembers the vast military cemeteries where fallen friends lie today. "The ones that get me the most are the ones that have "Known Only to God" on them," Halvorson said. "Some soldiers wouldn't wear dogtags."
And he believes too that it could have just as easily been him. "Two feet one way or another...," he said, gesturing.
The 90th Infantry Division of Combat Engineers suffered its most severe casualties at Seves Island, where 1140 were killed, 3710 were wounded and 647 were captured. At one point we were fighting room to room," Halvorson said. He recalls a daily journal where one squad commander wrote, "Taken: two bedrooms and a bathroom. Lost them tonight" "It was very close fighting," Halvorson said.
Six weeks into the fighting, Halvorson became a platoon sergeant, a position he did not relish because of the post's short life expectancy. "We drew straws" for the position, Halvorson said. "I lost."
The division of combat engineers was responsible for building bridges, loading pillboxes with explosives and mine sweeping.
Halvorson received a Purple Heart after being wounded by a German hand grenade in the fighting at Maiziers les Metz. He was awarded a Bronze Star for heroic achievement on December 20, 1944 because he and two other volunteers laid anti-personnel mines in an area that already had enemy mines in it. They wanted to leave a few surprises for the Germans.
When bombers hit St. Lo, Halvorson said, his division was pulled back. Shortly after that they became part of the 3rd Army under Patton instead of the 1st Army. "Guts and Blood Patton is what they used to call him," Halvorson said. "We used to make a joke of it saying, 'yeah, his guts and our blood.'" Patton's philosophy was "Always charge," Halvorson recalled. And charge, they did - straight into the Battle of the Bulge, considered a turning point in the war.
The German counteroffensive took Allied troops by surprise. The German soldiers pushed mostly American troops into a pocket, cutting them off. Patton, his reinforcements in tow, arrived in time to help the surrounded troops and held the line until additional troops arrived to push the Germans back.
The horrors of the war, the enormous loss in human lives, took a toll on Halvorson, he said. For nearly 20 years after the war years, he wouldn't talk about or even watch television shows about the subject. Reunions helped him deal with some of his memories, and returning to the battle sites 35 years later helped more, after he moved to the Southwest from Minnesota. "The people were so grateful," Halvorson remembered of the veterans' memorial tour. Everywhere there were banquets, flowers and speeches.
Gerald's wife, Betty, recalled the never-ending graciousness of their European hosts. "They just couldn't do enough for us," she said. "They were so kind."
Along with his memories of the hospitality the Czech people extended to their troops after the war ended, Halvorson said, he will always remember the friends he left behind too.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Massive cemeteries remain on or near the battlefields of WWII. Although the bodies of many American servicemen were brought back for burial in the United States, many others remain overseas.
American — The United States repatriated most of its dead and concentrated the rest at major cemeteries. The American Military Cemetery at Colleville-Sur Mer, above Omaha Beach, holds 9,386 graves and lists the names of 1,557 missing in the two-month Battle of Normandy. Another large U.S. cemetery is at Saint James, between Avranches and Fougeres.
British — Because Britain buried its dead on the spot near important battle sites, there are several British cemeteries. Among the largest are Bayeux, 4,868 graves, and Ranville, 2,151.
Canadian — The graves of 5,007 Canadians are at Beny-Sur~Mer- Reviers, near Juno beach, and Bretteville-Sur-Latze-Cintheaux between Caen and Falaise.
German- A total of 58,172 are buried at La Cambe, Saint-Desir-de-Lisieux, La Chapelle-en-Juger, Orglandes, Huisnes-Sur-Mer.
Casa Grande Dispatch
Casa Grande, Arizona
Saturday, June 04, 1994
HALVORSON BOYS IN MILITARY
St. Ansgar, Iowa — A group of relatives met Saturday evening in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Dahl as a farewell courtesy to Alton and Gerald Halvorson, sons of Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Halvorson, who are in the service. Alvin is home on his first furlough after a year in the army. Gerald will be inducted into the army Tuesday.
Waterloo Sunday Courier
March 15, 1942
OBITUARY FOR GERALD HALVORSON
Gerald L Halvorson, 82, a retired Casa Grande teacher and veteran of the Normandy Invasion, died on February 15, 2001 at Casa Grande Regional Medical Center.
Visitation is to be from 4 to 7 p.m. today at Trinity Lutheran Church. The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday, with the Rev. Fred Hazel officiating. Burial will be in Mountain View Cemetery.
Graduation Photo - 1936
Mr. Halvorson was born on February 4, 1919 in Park Rapids Minnesota, to Lydia and Clarence Halvorson. The family moved to St. Ansgar, Iowa, when he was 4. He attended school there and graduated from high school in 1936. He entered the Army in 1942 and served in the 90th Division, 315th Engineer Battalion. He fought in Normandy and other battles including the Battle of the Bulge and was in Czechoslovakia at the end of the war. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star before his discharge on November 1, 1945.
He married Betty M. Haugstad on June 22, 1946 in Preston, Minnesota.
He attended Iowa State College after leaving the service and received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1949. He taught agriculture and was an FFA adviser in Iowa and Minnesota before moving to Casa Grande in 1967. He earned a Master's degree at Murray State College in Kentucky in 1969 by attending summer school. He taught science for 14 years at Casa Grande Jurnior High School before retiring in 1981. He was a life member of Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion and Military Order of the purple Heart.
Survivors include his wife; six daughters: Gloria J. Johnson, Nancy K. Jackson, and Debbie A. Fitzpatrick, all of Casa Grande, Bonnie G. Haynes of Rochester, Minnesota, Beth M. Davis of Sherman, Texas, and Julie A. Wruble of Gilbert; two sons, Ronald A. and William G. Halvorson of Casa Grande; a sister Esther M. Quam of Minnetonka, Minnesota; a brother, Alton C. Halvorson of St. Ansgar; 25 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by five grandchildren.
Memorial contributions may be made to the American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, or Trinity Lutheran Church Memorial Fund.
Cole & Maud Mortuary is in charge of arrangements.
Casa Grande Dispatch
Casa Grande, Arizona
Monday, February 19, 2001
AWARD FROM GENERAL PATTON FOR GERALD
GENERAL CITES ST. ANSGAR YANK
Sgt. Gerald Halvorson Recovers From Wounds
St. Ansgar, Iowa — Sgt. Gerald Halvorson, 25, stationed in Germany, has been awarded the purple heart and received a commendation from General Patton for his action in crossing the Moselle river with the 90th division.
Sgt Halvorson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Halvorson, St. Ansgar, was wounded in action in November.
His parents have received a letter from him stating that he is recovering nicely and for them not to worry about him. He also sent them the purple heart and commendation from the general.
Mason City Globe Gazette
Saturday, January 06, 1945
GI IN HOSPITAL
St. Ansgar — Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Halvorson received a letter from their son, Sgt. Alton C. Halvorson, stating that he is hospitalized in France with an attack of jaundice. Another son, Sgt. Gerald Halvorson, was wounded in action and hopitalized a few weeks ago.
Mason City Globe Gazette
Thursday, February 15, 1945
Betty and Gerald L. Halvorson of Casa Grande will celebrate their golden anniversary Sunday.
Betty, formerly Betty Haugstad of Preston, Minn., married Gerald Halvorson from St. Ansgar, Iowa, in Lanesboro, Minn., June 22, 1946. They lived in Iowa and Minnesota until 1967, when they moved to Casa Grande. Gerald is a former science teacher at Casa Grande Junior High School. Betty was a waitress at the Francisco Grande Resort.
They raised eight children and have 22 grandchildren and four great-grandsons. Five of their children, Bill, Gloria Johnson, Nancy Jackson, Debbie Fitzpatrick, and Beth Davis, live in Casa Grande. Julie Wruble lives in Chandler. Ron lives in Denver. Bonnie Haynes lives in Rochester, Minnesota.
Their children will have a buffet brunch to honor the Halvorsons' 50th wedding anniversary Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Property Conference Center, 1251, W. Gila Bend Highway. Everyone who knows them and has been a part of their lives is invited to join the celebration. Please bring no gifts. Being at the brunch is your gift to them. A note, however, with any memories of your part in their lives would be cherished and included in their scrapbook of life.
Casa Grande Dispatch
Casa Grande, Arizona
Wednesday, June 05, 1996
35th Anniversary of D Day
Halvorson to Mark 35th Anniversary of D Day CG Man Traces March Across Europe
GERALD Halvorson looks up information about places he and his wife, Betty, will visit in Europe when they meet with other members of the 90th Infantry Division on a 16 day celebration. Halvorson's Purple Heart and Bronze Star and pictures taken while he was in Europe bring back memories of the war, getting him ready for the festivities, that began today.
[Five paragraphs illegible] . . . under the label "invasion brew."
The group will visit London before crossing the English Channel Sunday to begin tours of former battle areas.
The division will have lunch Monday with the mayor of Pont _____ one of the first towns that the men liberated.
Halvorson recalled trips into towns after the towns had been freed were like the biggest Fourth of July celebration one could ever see. He said people would stand on the streets 15 deep throwing flowers and handing out wine bottles in gratitude.
The group will then move onto Per_____ where it will join other units who will spend three days together honoring D Day with a series of activities and visiting Utah and Omaha Beaches.
The 90th Division landed on Utah Beach on a standing barge during the invasion, Halvorson said. From the time they hit the beaches they were fighting for nearly a year on the front lines.
The approximately ___ veterans and wives will spend three nights . . . and surrounding villages. The remainder of the trip from Utah Beach is almost . . . years ago.
There will be . . . at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier . . . Reims, France. . . .
. . . Picture of the first troops and their tanks getting off a barge at Utah Beach painted on it.
The division will meet June 14 with German veterans at the Patrick Henry Village in Heidelberg. Gen. Von der Heyte is expected to be there. He is the major who allowed the half hour truce at Seves Island while both sides picked up their wounded. The 90th Division suffered its most severe casualties at Seves Island - 1140 were killed. 3710 wounded and 647 captured. After the truce. Halvorson said, the war took up where it had left off.
On June 15, the group will leave for Frankfurt Airport where they will obtain flights for the United States.
While in the Army, Halvorson was platoon sergeant for the combat engineers in his company. Halvorson said, the combat engineers built bridges, loaded pillboxes with explosives and did sweeping for mines. Sometimes his platoon would put up temporary bridges across rivers in 45 minutes, he said.
Halvorson received a Purple Heart after he was wounded by a German hand grenade in Maiziers les Metz. He was leaning over, putting on a flame thrower when the grenade landed beside him, wounding the side of his face and his arm. But the injury did not force Halvorson from duty into the hospital. "If I wouldn't have been bent over picking up that flame thrower the grenade may have hit me so as to paralyze me," he said. Halvorson said he removed another piece of shrapnel from his wrist about two years ago.
Halvorson was awarded a Bronze Star for his heroic achievement on December 20, 1944 when he and two other volunteers laid anti-personnel mines in an area containing enemy mines while subject to artillery fire. Halvorspn said a lot of this work was done at night, and anyone who would step on one of the mines would be blown to pieces.
Up until 15 years ago, Halvorson said, he would not talk about or even watch television shows about the war. But now he often relives some of the battles with another member of the 90th from a different company, Emmett Grasty, a Casa Grande farmer. The two met by chance at the junior high school one day and happened to talk about the war which led to talk about a friend they both knew. "Emmett often says 'I bet you saved my life — all the mines you took out'" Halvorson said. (Halvorson regretted Grasty wouldn't be making the trip) but with the 30 rolls of film Halvorson bought he should be able to show the trip to his comrade.
Another soldier who lived in Arizona and Halvorson used to correspond with was "Pappy" Coons, a friend in Halvorson's company from south of Tucson who died in 1970. Halvorson recalled Coons' excitement when the war was almost over and the government said those 40 years old and older could go home. Coons was then 42.
But because "Pappy" lied about his age -- four years -- to be able to fight in the war, as far as the government was concerned the 38-year-old was ineligible to leave the battle.
One thing Halvorson said he is looking forward to is visiting the cemeteries where some of his comrades are buried. He stressed the sorrow that one suffers when "some of the fellows drop down next to you."
He said that even now the French fight to care for the cemeteries where American soldiers are buried. In season, fresh flowers are put on each grave each day, he said.
Major Bill Falvey from Niles, Michigan, coordinated the trip for the 80 veterans from the 90th Division and some of their wives. Falvey has spent his spare time over the past 1½ years working on the celebration.
Halvorson should have a lot to tell his family and friends when he gets home — about a continent that has changed considerably over the past 35 years.
Casa Grande Dispatch
Casa Grande, Arizona
Thursday, May 31, 1979
HALVORSON'S EUROPE TRIP
Halvorsons in Europe
ON A 16-DAY trip to Europe, Betty and Gerald Halvorson pause in the Pachten, Germany Town Square. The Halvorsons were among the group of approximately 135 soldiers and their wives who traced the steps that the 90th Infantry Division traveled-during the war 35 years ago.
Halvorson earned a Bronze Star for bravery for voluntarily laying mines in an area of Pachten which was already infested with German mines while under artillery and machine gun fire. Pachten is about 30 miles from Maiziers les Metz where Halvorson was awarded a Purple Heart for being wounded by hand grenade shrapnel in house-to-house fighting.
Casa Grande Dispatch
Casa Brande, Arizona
Friday, June 22, 1979