In Memory of
Army Sergeant
Gordon L. Blegen
Vienna, South Dakota
Clark County
December 24, 1921-July 7, 1943
Killed in Tank accident at Camp Campbell, Kentucky

Gordon L. Blegen

Gordon L. Blegen was born in Hazel, South Dakota on December 24, 1921, to George Blegen and Annie (Newstrom) Blegen.  Gordon, known to his family and friends as Goog or Googy, had two brothers and two sisters James, Archie, Evelyn, and Aris.  He attended Hazel and Vienna schools, and he worked on the family farm and did odd jobs in town.  He was very close to his Uncle Albert’s family and was like an older brother to his cousins.  In 1939 he worked in a Conservation Camp in the Black Hills, until moving to Riverside, California, in 1941 where he was employed in defense work.

On November 5, 1942, Gordon was inducted into the service.  His father died a few days after he left for the service.  He came home for the funeral in his new uniform.  Gordon was then stationed at Camp Campbell, Kentucky, in the 12th Armored Division of the 92nd Reconnaissance Battalion.  He was trained as a scout to go into the enemy lines to get information.  In November 1942, he wrote back to his cousin Boots Newstrom from Camp Campbell, “We are under very tough training rules now.  The chow is fair, some good meals some that are tougher than a boot.  I think I will like the Army O.K. after my Basic Training is over.”

By December, Gordon had qualified as an expert machine gunner.  He wrote to Boots, “I made a very good record on the range a couple of weeks ago.  I missed three shots out of one hundred at rapid fire at a distance of eighty-four feet.”

By February, Gordon had become a Private First Class and wrote again to his cousin Boots, “We are firing the 37-MM gun, which is the largest gun in our Company.  I made expert, which is a better score than either marksman or sharpshooter.  I was one of the five who was qualified as an expert, so I was chosen to help the non-commissioned officers on the firing line.”

In June Sergeant Blegen wrote, “I understand our Company is to go on maneuvers before we leave, but it is hard to tell what is cooking.  Nearly all of our advanced training is over, so at the present time we just go over things we have had in the past.”

In July a letter to Sergeant Blegen from his cousin Boots was returned with the notation “accidentally killed” and dated 7-13-43.  Sergeant Blegen had been killed instantly when a tank overturned on him at Camp Campbell.  On July 7, 1943, his mother received the news by a telegram.  His brother James, who was also in the army at the time and another soldier from Camp Campbell, escorted Gordon’s body home.

Sergeant Blegen was buried in the Hazel cemetery next to his father.  The flag that draped his casket was presented to his mother by Sergeant Mouller.  After “TAPS” and the gun salute, the spent casings were dropped into the grave.  The surviving family members who attended his funeral were his mother Annie, brother Archie, brother James from Camp Hauge in Texas, and sister Mrs. Gary Owen.

For several years during and after Word War II, Vienna, South Dakota had a wooden sign on Main Street with the names of all the service men from the area that had served in WWII.  Gordon’s name was the only one with a gold star by it.

Gordon L. Blegen was a good soldier and enjoyed the army.

This entry was respectfully submitted by Matt Borg and Taylon LaMont, 8th grade, Willow Lake School, Willow Lake, South Dakota, February 14, 2002.  Information for this entry was provided by Boots Newstrom, Gordon’s cousin from Rapid City, South Dakota; and Aris Schmidt, Gordon’s niece, from Willow Lake, South Dakota.